I first learned about authentic leadership at a corporate leadership retreat that I attended in 2016 in a mountain-top cabin. To this day, I still don’t know what town I was in. I just remember that I had to fly to Atlanta, Georgia, that I’d be taken on a 2-hour drive, and I needed to be ready to engage in leadership activities, including hiking. Our retreat leader happened to be a former executive who launched Coke Zero.
I learned about the important concept of Be –>Do–>Say, which in my experience is often times overlooked. It is important to actually be the change and then share it. Ideally, we don’t talk about doing something, then not do it; that isn’t showing up as your authentic self. Your actions need to align with what you are saying and what you are promising to your people, your colleagues, and your team. Is authenticity only about making decisions and taking action aligned to your core values? This is what I hear and read. But what does that really mean and how do we intentionally get there?
I’ve naturally gravitated towards authentic leaders and strive to be one myself. During my self-appointed sabbatical last summer to re-evaluate my career path, I embarked on a journey with the help of a life/spiritual coach to tap into my Inner Authentic Voice (IAV), aka intuition, sixth-sense, or gut feeling. It was a calling that I’ve had for years to explore and learn more about my natural intuitive sense. How do I tune into it with much more thoughtful intention and trust, knowing that it will guide me to the best outcome? You may wonder: what does this have to do with authenticity? …..EVERYTHING.
There are 3-key points to know about striving towards authentic empowerment, which is defined as aligning your personality’s behavior to your true authentic self.
- Defining Your Inner Authentic Voice (IAV) in decision-making: your IAV is the telephone to your true inner authentic self. In order to be an authentic leader, it is important that you recognize how to listen to your true inner authentic self. When you make decisions about next steps or what to do, what drives the decision? Is it data, input from colleagues, cultural expectations, or fear? These are typical ways we make decisions, but we rarely call out our true inner authentic self and the IAV that connects you to it. And maybe it’s because we don’t know how to routinely tap into it or think we can’t reliably trust it. But what if there was a way? All we need is awareness, trust and courage to follow it and some practical tools.
- The challenge is that we often listen to our Ego Narrative, which I’ve lovingly named EgoN. Our EgoN is the source of fear-based, self-limiting thoughts (e.g., you’re not good enough, what will your colleagues think if you spoke your truth?, people will start to call you woo-woo, people won’t trust you anymore, they will think you are crazy). Your IAV exists within you and anyone can tap into it for free. What’s really important to know is that your IAV cannot exist in your internal dialogue if your EgoN is running on repeat in your mind. To access your IAV and provide you with the best outcome that you likely may not even have considered or known, it is crucial to address EgoN.
- Tools: Quiet the noise (EgoN be Gone): say, “Thank you, but no thank you” to EgoN. Find time to quiet your mind so that you can tap into your IAV. I spend 7 minutes in the morning doing deep breathing with my eyes closed. Some would call it meditation, which I’ve never really known how to do. However, I do know how to close my eyes and take long, deep breaths. And lastly, writing your questions down in a notebook and then listening for the thoughts from you IAV to answer your questions is key.
But “Who cares?” you may ask. The benefits of following your IAV as a guide is that it brings you the best outcome beyond your imagination. It provides ideas and supports your creativity, which increases innovative thinking. I offer you proof in concept. Very successful business leaders and artists leverage their IAV and have spoken publicly of its importance in providing guidance in their professional careers. Some include Sarah Blakely (inventor of Spanx), Jamie Kern Lima (first female CEO of L’Oreal and cofounder of IT Cosmetics sold for $1.6B), Brene Brown (writer & researcher), Steven Spielberg (director), Hugh Jackman (actor), Matthew McConaughey (actor), Glennon Doyle (author of Untamed), and Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic) to name a few.
I’ve discovered a roadmap and actual tangible tools that you can adopt into daily rituals to make decisions and take action aligned to your true authentic self. This path leads to actual authentic empowerment and allows you to truly be an authentic leader.
I challenge you to think about authenticity and authentic leadership beyond “Being, Doing, Saying” and aligning to your core values. To create more authentic teams, organizational leaders have an opportunity to increase awareness and foster an environment to learn about a path to authentic empowerment with practical tools.