I’m very excited about this month’s focus on leadership. I wanted to start our conversation by focusing on an essential characteristic of leadership: authenticity. How does authenticity shape the life of leaders? A leader who is unafraid of their successes and failures is a leader that’s relatable. The leader who expresses shame at being far from perfect has placed themselves in prison. It’s hard to be excited about your growth as a leader if your image relies on your perfection. Many of us rely on superficial definitions of leadership to gauge our growth, using terms that are near impossible to uphold.
As leaders, we have to learn that it’s okay to be ourselves. Why are we afraid to be open about this part of our lives? We feel that if we admit our failures, it’s a sign of weakness. We think if we talk about the painful parts of our stories that people will reject us. We must learn how to live above the expectations (and disappointments) of others and instead be the best leaders God wants us to be. As leaders, we must learn how to be comfortable with every chapter of our lives. We each have a beginning, middle, and end. The middle is the part of the story where we learn who we are or aspire to be. It shouldn’t be a place of shame.
What is another reason it’s important to be transparent? It’s challenging to provide leadership where you aren’t authentic. Those we serve can also feel the disconnection as well. When people think that we aren’t open, they will avoid having tough conversations with us about their challenges. They may believe that we are too perfect to relate to their circumstances. In his article The True Qualities of Authentic Leaders Bill George writes, “You cannot ‘fake it till you make it’ by putting on a show as a leader or being a chameleon in your style. People sense very quickly who is authentic and who is not. Some leaders may pull it off for a while, but ultimately they will not gain the trust of their teammates, especially when dealing with difficult situations.”
We are effective when we can remove the walls of perfection and be who we are in front of those we lead. Being authentic is not a license to do whatever we want to do and to throw away wisdom. It’s an invitation to be real with other people and allowing God to use our scars to bring healing to those around us.
What are characteristics of authentic leaders?
George identifies five characteristics:
An authentic leader understands their purpose.
An authentic leader practices solid values.
An authentic leader leads with their heart.
An authentic leader establishes connected relationships.
An authentic leader demonstrates self-discipline.
We will be discussing each of these attributes further as we continue our conversation.
I want to ask you the following questions as you become an authentic leader:
How are you living your life authentically as a leader?
What are some of your fears about living authentically?
What is one step you can take to begin living an authentic life?
Transparency heals. Are you willing to be authentic?