(Set to the tune of take me out to the ball game….)
Today you are You, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
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.
I grew up in church. My father and grandfather were both ministers. I spent some time running from God in my 20s, but I was always His. From an early age I remember words from the Bible that my mom would quote and my dad would preach. They are written in I Peter 5, and I’ll quote the phrase in context because the verses right before and after are so wise:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
This is what I thought of when I heard about lions in the Bible. Basically, the devil is a lion. That and I thought of the children’s Bible story of Daniel and the Lions Den.
But recently I heard two songs on the radio using lion imagery. Really different takes on the picture of lions and faith. They made me think a lot about lions. And the Bible. So I did some investigating. Did you know that there are 119 references to lion(s) in the Bible? There’s SO much to unpack in this study I’m doing on lions that I could write about it for two weeks. But since you’re probably less enchanted with lions than I am, I’m just writing about it for two days.
So today I’m looking at this idea of lions as a picture of struggles we have that are unseen. This is a little esoteric, but I believe that there is good and evil in this world. I believe that the good is from God and the bad is from another supernatural force that I call the devil. I also believe that good wins the war, but sometimes bad wins the battle. I don’t understand a lot of what happens in this world, so that’s my very simplistic explanation. It’s a battlefield that I can’t completely understand or see and sometimes bad takes the battle. My hope and my faith allow me to press on because I don’t believe that’s the end of it. The war is not over.
I’ve seen that in my own life. I have seen the bad and lost battles – both my own personal battles and battles of those closely connected to my life. I do believe that the force for bad in the world seizes on the bad things that you do or the hard stuff you experience and tries to derail your whole life because of it. Heck, I’ve seen that trick work. I watched my parents go through an ugly divorce, I experienced having no material possessions, I struggled with an eating disorder, I sought validation from guys who had no idea how to value (or validate) a woman, I over-did everything from drinking to spending. It could have derailed me permanently. Those stronger than I am have fought, and lost, similar battles. But this passage on lions gives me comfort. The supernatural evil MAY BE prowling around like a lion seeking to devour, BUT (don’t you love that there’s a but there) you do not let him. Resist. Stand on your faith. Know you are not alone. Others around the world are fighting too. Sigh: “the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” You do suffer first. A little while. But you will be restored. Made strong. Firm. Steadfast.
I leave you with the song that takes a look at God closing the mouth of that lion (by Mercy Me):
I’ve been the one held down in chains
Beneath the weight of all my shame
I’ve been the one to believe
That where I am You cannot reach
You’re the one who conquers giants
You’re the one who calls out kings
You shut the mouths of lions
You tell the dead to breathe
You’re the one who walks through fire
You take the orphan’s hand
You are the one Messiah
You are I am
She whispered for me to shout Happy Father’s Day!
No, no – I’m determined to do this my way.
I won’t speak when I’m told,
But I’m proud to be part of your fold.
I’d really rather help you bail hay.
Today we celebrate you at the farm,
And so far we’ve not caused any alarm,
This is where we like to play,
And where we like to say,
Thanks daddy for keeping us from all harm.
We hope you know how much we love you.
How much we appreciate all that you do.
We love that you make us laugh,
We love going with you to pet the calf,
Scoring you as our daddy was a real coup.
We love you.
Happy Father’s Day 2013!
I am so excited about the outfits found in this SWAP. If you missed last week, we’re in the middle of a three week “SWAP” – Shopping With A Purpose. These are with my real live friends/guinea pigs. Last week you met Brandy and watched her discover pieces to upgrade her wardrobe to executive career. The other conundrum Brandy faced during our SWAP was polishing up her casual Friday. Brandy is the only woman in her office. Additionally, her boss doesn’t office in town. So Fridays in her office are really casual. But as you’ve heard me say, you just never know when you’re going to bump into someone who could impact your career, so you have to dress the part. EVEN on casual Fridays (especially then because those can unravel pretty quickly if you get too casual).
Brandy needed to exchange her pale jeans for a darker trouser jean and have other options on rotation besides jeans and casual tops. Well, she hit it out of the park. You saw that a few of the blazers she found last week could be paired with jeans. But she found this gorgeous blazer (Ann Taylor Loft), which I wanted to buy so badly but I have no shopping budget right now, and it just looked spectacular when sitting atop a dark rinse jean (Talbot’s) for casual Friday:
In addition, she found a few good pieces which she can mix and match, including this simple royal blue top and perfect length patterned pencil skirt (both Ann Taylor) which she can pair with kitten heels for casual Friday:
What is critical if your casual Friday has lost some of its sheen is to add a few basic pieces which you can build on – a dark wash trouser jean, a couple of fun/bolder blazers or a cardigan, a simple skirt – A line or pencil depending on your figure type, and some simple blouses that are not t-shirts. Stay tuned next week for our other friend Julie’s SWAP feature and make sure to send me any SWAP ideas you have.