Learning to Lead: Part 1, Authentically You

Today you are You, that is truer than true. 

There is no one alive who is Youer than You.

Dr. Seuss

Last week, I debuted a new Tuesday series as a precursor to my book, Learning to Lead, releasing.  Each week, I will highlight one of the critical skills I found effective women leaders using to make waves and move mountains.  Today, I highlight one of the most critical foundational skills a leader must possess:  You are You. 

If I use the term all the leadership books use, then you might go click over to some t.v. show recap because the concept is so overused it causes women to tune out.  But here it is – Authenticity.  I know the term is nearly trite in leadership speak, but it IS at the heart of why you lead and how you lead and where you lead and it’s also the reason people will follow you. 

During my research, I found an interesting book that focused on this authenticity concept called True North.  The authors said, “During the past fifty years, leadership scholars have conducted more than one thousand characteristics, or personality traits of great leaders.  None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader.  Thank goodness.  If scholars had produced a cookie-cutter leadership style, people would forever be trying to emulate it.  That alone would make them into personas, and others would see through them immediately.  The reality is that no one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else.”

Whew!  What a relief.  I don’t think I would actually be a very good someone else.  What works for them would not work for me.  People have to be able to trust you.  They can’t trust you if they don’t know who you are.  They can’t connect to you if you are inauthentic.  Plus, you must be guided by your own vision (which we’ll get to) and your own sense of values and instincts which make you a unique and relatable leader. 

Your life story will define your leadership style.  That concept is repeated in all the books, articles, and interviews I conducted.  The former CEO of Starbucks, who grew up in the projects of Brooklyn watching his father’s repeated career failures, credits his background with giving him the motivation to create and lead a huge successful business.  No matter what your story, ease or hardship, poverty or affluence, extreme shyness or contagious out-goingness, it is the sum of your life events that enables you to lead uniquely as only you are capable.  Each individual’s story is the reason there is not one centralized list of what it takes to become a successful leader.  By applying some practical tips and tools and operating from a place of authenticity, you can lead in your life, your career, and you can expand your sphere of influence.

You may be naturally outgoing or shy.  You may have come from a family of executives or be the first person to go to college in your family.  You may have grown up without a shred of diversity in your life or you may have every diverse quality that exists on this planet.  Whatever your story is, that is your story.  Own It! 

Regardless of what the winds of your office or your company says may be the “way to be,” at the end of the day you must stay true to who you are and not try to fashion your leadership style by copying the path of someone you know or someone at your office.  It will not ring true.  This can be hard.  Particularly if you are reading this and are newer to your career.  There is an innate chameleon instinct to blend into the surroundings you step into.  Do not do that.  You have achieved what you have because of who you are.  You won’t be happy pretending to be someone else.  Be you.  If you’re not sure who that is right now, then take some time to understand what that means.  Establish your values and ideals and stay grounded in that sense of self regardless of the obstacles that may arise.

Comments

  1. I’m reading this a little late – but loved it. Loved the idea that after all the studies, they still couldn’t get a clear profile of a leader. And thank you for encouraging us to own our story…no matter what it is.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] week, we kicked off this leadership series with a critical technique: Authenticity.  Today, we look at another pivotal leadership strategy: Optimism.  How you frame your story, and [...]

  2. [...] tackled authenticity and optimism as the first two traits in our leadership series pulled from the soon to release [...]

  3. [...] previously discussed and that are critical to growing this skill.  Techniques such as leading Authentically, Risk-Taking, learning Optimism, Charting Your Course and developing a Vision, and Building [...]

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