Summer must be over – The X Factor is on TV again and already I am an addict! I play a little game – trying to guess how many artists Simon Cowell will describe as ‘authentic’.
There is a lot of talk of ‘authentic leadership’ at the moment – but what does it mean?
Wikipedia says ‘Authenticity concerns the truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.’
I think that is exactly what authenticity is in a leader.
To be authentic you have to first know yourself. You need to understand where you came from – your family roots – and the lessons you have learnt on life’s journey to where you are now. You need to know what you really value and believe and are prepared to stand up for.
I was born in the Stockton-on-Tees in the north east of England – a place where common sense prevails and we call a spade a spade. Here in London that is sometimes regarded as a bit brutal – but it is me, it is real and I am proud of it.
I have reflected on lessons I have learnt – the influence of the Quaker school I went to. ‘Magna Est Veritas’ was the motto and I came to believe it. I have an enormous capacity for work – I know where that came from too – it was the way to try and please my Dad. And I know that I desperately want to make a difference in this world – to know that some lives are improved as a result of me being here – without that for me life is not worth living.
So I am getting to know me pretty well but being an authentic leader is more than just knowing yourself.
Leadership is about showing yourself too. Leading the way. Walking the talk. Standing up for what you believe and hoping others will want to follow you. Leadership is about knowing what you stand for and then taking action to protect or promote it. Leadership is about not just knowing but doing – taking actions with honest intent.
Brené Brown says it so well in her book, Daring Greatly. “Do not shrink. Do not puff up. Stand my sacred ground.”
So being an authentic leader is easy. Just know who you are and then show it to the world.