A characteristic of effective leadership is the ability to be authentic. It is unambiguously one of the most important aspects that determines a holistic style of leading, whether you are leading yourselves or others. The reason this is so important is that at your very core, you have a genuineness that creates your uniqueness, and it is impacted when it is ignored. You may carry out duties and responsibilities for a long time, and may be successful; however, when that essence of authenticity is put aside for long periods, evidence of discontent begins to show. It may appear as burnout, boredom, frustration, anger, exhaustion, etc. And, it is exhausting not being authentic.
The dictionary defines Authentic as “(1) not false or copied; genuine; real;
(2) having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified:
(3) representing one’s true nature or beliefs; true to oneself or to the person identified.”
The second component for leadership is empowerment of yourself, which in turn paves the way to empower others. Empowerment is “(1) to give power or authority to; authorize, especially by legal or official means; (2) to enable or permit.”
If you are not being authentic, the questions are:
- At what cost?
- What would it take to empower that authenticity?
Let’s explore these three questions to identify how you can claim your authentic power and lead.
First, let’s look at the beliefs and behaviors that hold you back. It starts with self-discovery, and it may be uncomfortable to examine. A specific factor in the search for understanding yourself is that it can be uncomfortable, so it is time to get comfortable with discomfort. It is a requirement for growth.
Next, you must be willing to take ownership and responsibility to claim your power. Too often we think of power as one person’s influence over others. To live authentically, we must align our passions with our purpose and the result is that enormous possibilities are available. When we’ve become congruent with who we are and what we want, that is power. One person’s influence—over themselves.
When I decided to write a book on conscious leadership that had been brewing in my head for almost a decade, I had to look deeply at what held me back, which included perfectionism, self-judgment and uncertainty. I realized in the end that the most important thing about the book was to write it. I stepped out of my so-called, perceived comfort zone and completed the dream I had to write a book about my passion for developing consciousness as an important ingredient for life and organizations. And it felt great! I claimed my authentic power. I saw what was holding me back—Fear—and I knew I had to move through the fear to achieve my goal. That’s power.
Much of our decisions to hold ourselves back, not interact with others, not speak up and share creative ideas are because we have an illusion that holding back will keep us safe. There is certainly a time for discernment, for choosing what is worth pushing ourselves for so we can step out of our box to try something new or choose to stay put. The key to seeing the difference between the two is to know what your intent is behind the action. While intent does not necessarily equal impact, the clearer we are with respect to what our intention is—why we want to take the action—the better chance we have of making a difference. We need to recognize and explore real opportunities when they present themselves to see how they fit into the overall goal.
Moreover, staying or playing it safe is not safe because there will ultimately be an incongruence with who you are and what you want to accomplish. This incongruence or misalignment slowly eats away at creativity; you can become complacent and disengaged. This is not safe. This state of mind is corrosive to your team and your own success. Playing “safe” can be denigrating and over time create a dissatisfaction with yourself and others.
One thing to consider when you have the feeling that you need to stay safely in your comfort zone, realize that safety may not be so safe in the long run. Measuring missed opportunities and “what ifs” is a tricky business. Can you achieve that something you long for by staying on the course you have been following? Staying the course when you are discontent is a tangible risk that likes to pose as safety.
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” Helen Keller
What is the Cost?
Stress, anxiety and unhappiness build up and take their toll. Hanging on to limiting beliefs is barrier to growth. Yet changing beliefs is more than coming up with a new statement of what to believe, or just trying on a new belief and hoping it sticks. Real change is finding a new belief that is empowering and is in alignment with who you are and your values.
Merriam-Webster defines stress as “a state of mental tension and worry caused by problems in your life, work; something that causes strong feelings of worry or anxiety.” Clearly, a state of mental tension is a block to stepping into your power. Stress is a topic that gets a lot of attention because it can be physically unhealthy. While there are techniques to help manage stress published frequently, try to approach stress as a wake-up call. Stress can be transformational by building a tremendous amount of awareness of what is going on in our lives and work, and what we can do to change things. Furthermore, conscious leaders understand that stress can impact performance, behavior and mood. Stress affects us personally, and that effect trickles down to the rest of our team.
Whether the issue is personal or one related to business, freeing up anxious energy and limiting beliefs with a new way of being is life-changing and allows us to live in our full potential. Sometimes considering what we think of ourselves or others is the sticky spot, that when moved through can lead to great work and transformation. When we free ourselves of limiting beliefs and misconceptions, we release anxieties and have access to our authentic power.
Stress can be a catalyst for self-discovery. The more you know, the more you grow. This is the firm foundation on which you can develop your leadership and build your success. Especially note when stress is a wake-up call for giving self-care, which is a time to look at what is going on and what you can do to mitigate the stress by making conscious choices.
What would it take to empower authenticity?
An important aspect to claim your authenticity is to fully assess what is important and how well you are aligned with your whole self. The following questions and exercises are tools for creating alignment.
- Write down your values, as many as you feel are important to you. Then narrow the list to the top five things. Where does each value currently show up in your day-to-day life? If there are any that sit in the shadows that you would like to bring more front and center, which one(s)? Why is it not a primary contributor? How can it be made into a primary contributor?
- On a scale of 1-10, one being lowest and ten being the highest, how integrated are your mind, body and spirit? Now, spirit can mean various things to different people. It is not necessarily religious, as it can be intuition, wisdom, higher self, divine—however you define it for you. There will be times when we utilize one aspect of mind, body, spirit more than another, and at the same time, the other two are still a part of who we are. What does the integration of these three aspects of yourself look or feel like for you? Begin to notice how they interrelate in your day-to-day activities. Ignoring one or more parts can ultimately lead to imbalance. The Aristotle quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” can be a guiding statement to maintaining a balance of mind, body and spirit.
- Consider a meditative practice as a regular part of your daily life. Whether it is a walk outside, a calm quiet time set aside, reading something that is empowering and motivating—it does not matter. Just focus on whatever gives you that sense of being calm and connected, free of worry or fear, and fully present. Find ways to make this an important part of your life—just like eating and sleeping and brushing your teeth. After a while, you will be compelled to do it.
- What gives you joy? What energizes you? How much of that energizing factor do you have in your life and work? How can you have more?
- If you were to give a TED Talk, what message would you give? Once you have determined your message, assess whether it is a part of how you show up in your work and in your life. Bottom line is, are you living that message?
- What “stories” have you invested in about yourself? How have they worked for you? Do they align with your values? If not, how would you rewrite your story to be authentically you?
Self-discovery and self-awareness are critical for living and leading authentically. Begin to notice the ways in which you hold that unique part of yourself back, the cost to yourself and others when you do, and explore ways to empower yourself, which will in turn empower others.
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anaïs Nin