This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.
The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible and 5) Strategic Learners. See this first blog post to get a quick overview and context. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.
The IDEAL LEADER is AUTHENTIC.
- Knows who they are as a person of strengths and weaknesses
- Doesn’t hesitate to be engaged in meaningful dialogue with people at any level
- Is “other” focused
Scores of books and articles have been written about authentic leadership. I think a lot of it is valid. Some, well let’s say it makes good title. Come on who doesn’t want to be authentic? Of course there might be that person somewhere out there that is saying…”I’m an imposter and it seems to be working pretty darn good”. Now you also might be that person reading this and thinking…”That’s my boss! He is incompetent and terrible with people…or…When something goes wrong she is never willing to admit she is wrong”.
Who are you? If you are a leader new to a team or organization…this is likely the question of those around you. They don’t come up and ask you in that straightforward way. It’s more like… “Tell me a little bit about yourself. What are some of jobs you have had and what’s your experience?” If we dig a little deeper on the reality side of these questions…they are trying sniff out if you are the real deal or not. What are you?
Collectors of valuables and antiques are always excited when a “letter of authenticity” accompanies a piece of merchandise or heirloom they have purchased. It’s a grounded assessment that it is really what it appears to be. Not some fake that has had its blemishes or weaknesses covered over. Or something with a facade, a thin layer of disguise for what is really underneath. Is your list of accomplishments a bunch of fluffy crap that the recruiter wowed the HR person with to get you a job?
Hey, I think I came up with a pretty good analogy with the “letter of authenticity” for what it means to be a leader. BE REAL! Come with a letter that’s states exactly what and who you are. Know that you are both your strengths and your weaknesses. Don’t try to overuse one (your strengths) or try to hide the other (your growth area). The deal is this. During my career in sales, sales management, and developing sales organizations I have shared my truth with everyone who I can…and that is…. “People can spot or smell a phony a mile away”.
Some of the lack of being authentic as a leader is more subtle than the blatant examples we all know of leaders who lack self awareness. The main problem we all face as human beings is we are kind of “hard wired” to be worried about looking bad. Said another way we want to look good. If you don’t believe me, let me ask you something. Did you look in the mirror or window to catch your reflection today?
Leaders who are vulnerable in relationships and willing to take some risk generally struggle less in this area of living with (or knowing) their strengths and weaknesses. Even so, it requires constant vigilance to not fall into a false sense of confidence and state of personal delusion.
The first step in coaching a leader to be more authentic with others is to get them to be more authentic with their own self. –Mark Uhlenberg (Can you quote yourself and be authentic? Well I just did!)
My most significant breakthrough in being authentic as a leader was working with my coach Jeff Brown. Jeff was like a “self awareness” strength coach. He drilled me on the small and simple things that turned out to be a foundation for building a powerful practice of self awareness. I found out that I was not as authentic as I thought I was. In fact, the most disappointing thing happened to me. It’s when a leader finds out he or she believes their bull shist (BS is the common acronym). It’s bad enough to BS others, but doing it (BSing) to yourself is absurd. It’s certainly not going to build the platform you need to operate from as a powerful and effective leader. It works for politicians…it doesn’t work for business owners and people leaders who are striving for the ideal.
If you are coaching a leader caught up in the bovine syndrome of BS. You have to hold up the mirror of straight talk. Next step is getting them to practice it with you as a coach. That’s why coaching relationships become so powerful because the coachee is in the practices of becoming a leader with you. Talking straight “seems” simple enough until you start practicing it. A practice is something as a professional you keep on doing and doing. If you get out of the practice of straight talk; authentic relationships become more difficult or cease to exist all together.
So, in this post related to BEING AUTHENTIC and KNOWING YOURSELF we have opened up the idea that STRAIGHT TALK is a PRACTICE. That an ideal leader; practices authenticity consistently, becomes a more potent developer of people through their use of their strengths, and doesn’t hide, but minimizes the areas where they are weakest. Get a coach, an accountability partner, and get real. Life and work will become a source of joy, peace, and fulfillment. Don’t fake it…make it…real.
Next post we’ll dive a little deeper into Authentic leadership as an ideal in the area of dialog and speaking.