The authentic leader

My coaching ethos: become who you are

I recently had the opportunity to make a micro-presentation on my coaching approach to a group of internationally-based leaders.  One of the points I emphasised was my belief that we all deliver our best by being who we are – and for most of us that means learning how to become who we are.

My belief comes from long experience of working with leaders who struggle to meet the models that other people expect them to conform to, and who feel liberated when they experience the ease – and for many, a personal peace – that comes with accepting and embracing that they are who they are.  They invariably experience a parallel energy, even exhilaration, and a focus that mean that they leverage their strengths with courage and assertiveness, communicate powerfully on what matters to them, and – fascinatingly – empower their teams to deliver authentically on the vision they’ve communicated.



Leaders who could deliver more

After my presentation a member of the audience approached me, saying she’d been moved by what I’d said, and asking if I could let her have any material from which she could learn more about the topic.  Something about her reminded me of leaders I’ve coached in the past who felt stuck, or daunted, or anxious about the leadership agenda facing them.  People who knew they had the potential to deliver more as leaders but didn’t know how: they just knew that another training course probably wasn’t going to be enough.


The link between authenticity and leadership

As children we all occupy our authentic selves: we say what we mean, we follow the directions in which our interests take us, we accept our mistakes as part of everyday life without judging ourselves to be lacking or failing in some respect, and we get excited and joyful.  We have an instinctive sense of self-care.

As we grow, we tend to take more and more account of other people’s judgments, and sometimes we can allow what matters to us to be clouded so that our own values are compromised.  We can lose our joy in life and work.  And we can get out of touch with the meaning of our lives and the place of work in that.  Our communication may lack power because it lacks integrity.  Some of us lose touch with self-care.

The more we are playing a role, the less compelling our communications, and the less inspiring we become. We become more preoccupied with the appearance than with the reality of who we are.


The quality of authentic leadership

My hope for the leader who approached me is that she will set out on a journey of discovery that will lead her to see, understand, accept, and engage with what matters to her, what drives and energises her, and what and who inspire her – and that she will, in the process, not only be the best leader she can be and engage others in her vision and her integrity, but also inspire her team, and their teams, to be the best they can be too.

Photo by Hamed Saber via Compfight

2 thoughts on “The authentic leader

  1. Frank Mason says:

    I think this is a fantastic article Lindsay and full of wisdom. I totally agree with you on the power of authenticity and also the struggle in getting comfortable with it… with being completely ourselves, putting away the masks (even the thin ones!) – As you say, “becoming who we are”. I also think that part of the challenge is working around our subtle and often subconscious fears of rejection (from others) which can be very deeply rooted and can disable us from being fully ourselves. Navigating all this might not be easy but it’s a worthwhile journey for the fulfilment and end results!

  2. lindsay says:

    Oh what an elephant trap is the fear of rejection. Humans are social animals and acceptance by the tribe is a survival mechanism. The problem comes when we confuse survival with disapproval, when we believe that assumption, and so get stopped dead in our tracks and trip over ourselves in the process! How ironic that it often takes courage to be the person we are.

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