First, you have to understand yourself, because the hardest person you will ever have to lead is yourself…but, as long as you are true to who you are, you can cope with the most difficult circumstances that life presents.
Bill George. True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership
Being authentic is easy when others agree with you. But, fear of criticism, rejection, and conflict often overwhelms and stifles authenticity. As a leader, your job often forces you into circumstances that challenge your resolve to show your real self. How do you stay authentic when you face competing interests or opposing expectations?
Promise this dying woman that you will always be true to yourself, that you will be brave enough to live the way you want to, regardless of what other people say.
Now that she was dying, she didn’t care what people thought of her and anguished over why she hadn’t worked this out sooner.
From, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware
Imagine that you are on your deathbed. And, like the terminally ill patients that Bronnie Ware cared for, regret fills you because you didn’t have the courage to live a life true to yourself. Instead, you lived and acted as others wanted.
As you contemplate an upcoming situation, try to imagine how will you feel if you stray from your position, opinion, or decision? Identify your boundaries. When will you listen and compromise? What are the benefits and costs of compromise? Where will you stand firm?
The consciousness of a business can only raise as high as the consciousness of the leader, so the best investment a leader can make is working on themselves. John Mackey, CEO, Whole Foods
Intense emotions often accompany difficult situations and trigger you into a reactionary mode. Authentic leaders are adept in emotional self-awareness: the capacity to notice and understand one’s feelings and moods and to recognize how they affect their thoughts and actions. They are also adept at self-management: the ability to manage one’s inner states and emotions.
Dr. Daniel Siegel created the phrase, “Name it to tame it” which describes the process of naming a feeling to reduce feeling overwhelmed by unmanaged, strong emotions. For example, when you notice an emotion such as anger, label it “I feel anger”. Notice what bodily sensations the thought of anger produces such as a burning sensation in your stomach. “Name it to tame it” activates two different brain circuits and sends calming neurotransmitters to your “emotional” brain. The earlier you can identify and label an emotion, the easier it is it to manage it.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It is precisely that simple and it is also that difficult.”
Warren Bennis, Author, scholar, leadership expert
Becoming an authentic leader is not easy or quick. The process takes years and dedication to inner work. The benefits are worth it, though. People trust others who are consistent and genuine. Research from Harvard, Columbia, and Northwestern supports this.
“It seems to be true that to act in accordance with one’s own self, emotions, and values is a fundamental aspect of well-being… that staying true to yourself matters, even if it is difficult, because we notice that there is a cost involved in straying too far from your personal values.”
Maryam Kouchaki, a Professor ,Kellogg School