Coaches talk about authenticity a lot. How to live an authentic life. How to be an authentic leader. How to know when you are or are not authentic. But what does that really mean for nonprofit leaders like you? How do you cultivate authentic leadership?
At Thanksgiving, one of my family members became seriously ill and the situation required immediate attention. I’m happy that they are recovering well now but the impact on my other responsibilities was immediate. I missed some deadlines, forgot social commitments, and generally ignored any activity that wasn’t critical to helping them with their recovery. I put all but one role on hold. And, I’m (mostly) fine with that. I allowed myself to admit I couldn’t do it all and I didn’t judge myself for failing to meet all my goals. My role as a family member was my higher value.
An authentic person is one who is true to themselves and comfortable with who they are. They know their highest values as well as their strengths and weaknesses. They are consistent, reliable, and willing to be vulnerable. They and we know who they are.
It’s no surprise that one of the attributes most highly rated in successful leaders is authenticity.
Authentic leaders are self-aware. They are able to be consistently themselves because they make decisions based on their values, build on their strengths, and are vulnerable enough to accept their imperfections. These leaders inspire trust!
But how many of us feel confident bringing our true selves to our role as leaders? How many of us, women especially, have been advised to mold ourselves into some bland, humourless, impervious, grey suit-wearing version of “leader?” How many nonprofit leaders feel stress and that they are “imposters” as a result?
Many years ago, I worked in an office with a long central corridor. Individual offices opened off the corridor and each had a window into the corridor. One day, I was seized with the impulse to leap across each window as if auditioning (heinously) for Swan Lake. I can’t now recall whether anyone on my team even noticed my woeful grand jetés but I still remember how following that impulse to be silly lightened and improved my day. I was authentically myself and as importantly, I modelled for everyone on staff that our work culture included fun and exuberance.
Leadership is not merely a title or a set of skills; it is a dynamic and multifaceted role that demands you be confidently yourself.
And, p.s. I know you’re amazing!