I Gotta Be Me


Buzzwords can take on a life of their own. People throw them all over the place like they do with beads on Mardi Gras. And while workplace acronyms require a translator or a decoder ring, I’m talking about everyday words that are not workplace-specific. Words like vulnerability, transparency and trust are everywhere – in books, articles, motivational speeches, training courses, podcasts and videos.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that an increasing number of leaders want to learn more about how they can lead at a higher level of effectiveness. The buzzword challenge is to neither fall into the trap of either assuming there is only one meaning to each word (e.g., “Being vulnerable means I have to share all of my feelings with everyone.”) nor to use the words as justification for undesirable results (e.g., “I can’t help it that he quit when I told him we were going to sell the company in a year; I was just being transparent.”).

One of the most popular buzzwords in the last few years is authenticity. I both chuckle and shake my head when I see articles about “The XX Ways to be Authentic” or videos on “Here’s What Authentic Leaders Say”. I believe authenticity isn’t about a checklist or a best practices tutorial; it’s about getting to the core of who you are:

  1. What are your strengths and your Achilles heel?
  2. What are your priorities?
  3. What makes you tick … and what ticks you off?
  4. What are the beliefs that empower and energize you?

This level of discovery is not done in 15 minutes – it needs to be rooted out; it takes time and focus. And it’s a part of my work as a Leadership Catalyst that I absolutely love. Because when the “aha” revelations start, the first step to authenticity is complete. And, yes, there’s more! Not only do you need to really know who you are at the core, authenticity is about having the confidence and conviction to live your life with intentional choices that support that core.

Being authentic isn’t simply a list of do’s and don’ts, nor is it an excuse to act any way you want whenever you feel like it because “that’s just who I am.” Authenticity at its best is a responsibility to both being true to who you are while at the same time having self-awareness to be purposeful about the impact on others in the way you show up. Afterall, we don’t live on this planet alone.

This Week: What does “being authentic” really mean to you? Don’t take it for granted by assuming you already know. Write out your answers to the four questions above. Share them with people who know you best, and be open to their perceptions and input – we all have blind spots, and it’s necessary to have people who will hold up the mirror so we can truly see who we are. Then, ask yourself: Am I living in a way that embraces my core? If not, what needs to shift? And what will the resulting impact be on those around me?

In Next Week’s Post: Building trust.

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