Authenticity is risky. When you lead from your heart, feedback stings brighter. It takes courage to think (and even more to say) to those in positions of power, “Thank you, I understand you, I choose not to lead that way.”
I’ve said that.
These potentially vital words are treacherous on two fronts. First, you may be missing an important point. Maybe you should be leading differently. Or, even if you know deep in your heart how you’re leading is “right”, the “system” may reject your style. You may not fit in. If values are truly misaligned, something must go, and the system’s bigger than you.
As we turn toward the third branch of the REAL model. Authenticity, I asked leaders across many contexts to help wrestle with this sensitive topic.
“How do you balance staying true to your core leadership values when you’re pressured to lead a different way?”
I heard stories of authenticity with happy and sad endings from large corporations, small businesses, volunteer gigs, and churches. And then the offering,
“I think that the balance you’re looking to maintain is impossible without some sacrifices.”
Be sure YOU choose what to sacrifice.
4 Sacrifices of Inauthenticity
Yes, there are sacrifices to true authenticity. But the sacrifices of faking it are greater. The world is full of fakers that crash and burn. Build your leadership on a firm foundation.
- Results – I’m going to assume the deeply held values you’re clinging to are producing a track record of sustained results. If not, open your heart again and consider changing your approach. Great results come from a deeply committed team inspired toward a vital vision. If you’ve got that in spades, beware of disrupting that flow. If you’re busy worrying about what others will think, you’re likely to choke. Sure, there’s danger in swimming up-stream, but results buy freedom.
- Energy – Working to maintain appearances drains vital energy. To be at your very best you need every ounce of energy focused on your vision and team. Investing that energy in political games or maintaining a facade takes your life force out of the game.
- Followers – Human beings want to follow people they trust. Your team has a highly calibrated BS meter. Stop leading with integrity and courage, and people will know. The dangerous truth is that they may appear to be with you. Inauthenticity is contagious. The good news, so is authenticity.
- Health – Nothing’s more stressful than leading a lie. If you’re more interested in being promoted than supporting your team, but “act” like a servant leader, your body will retaliate.
Real authenticity will involve sacrifice. So will faking it. You decide.
Thanks to the collaborative thinking of members of the Lead Change, Lead with Giants, and Center For Creative Leadership communities for your inspiring discussion on this topic. Looking forward to the comments of the LGL community. Namaste.
*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein