I am often asked by young(er) colleagues and folks I mentor, “how do you lead?” My short two-word answer is “like me.” I don’t mean to be glib. What I’m saying is that I practice authentic leadership. I lead as I live. Who I am as a leader is who I am on the golf course, spending time with friends or at home with my family.
I think there are a lot of executives out there who “act” their way through leadership. By this, I mean, they develop a leadership persona that is different from their authentic selves. This doesn’t work for me. I don’t have time to be anyone other than who I am. Over the course of my career, I’ve found that leading authentically has allowed me to be the most effective, satisfied and passionate leader I can be.
You have to first be willing to be yourself in all aspects of your life, including your professional one. Your desire to lead with authenticity is directly tied to your willingness to take the risk to be yourself. The most significant ingredient to success is your ability to share your whole self with others—not just your “office” persona.
Being an authentic leader is also about feeling comfortable in your own skin, owning your leadership style and playing to your strengths. It is also about more than just showing up and being professional. It is about creating lasting relationships and connections with your team and colleagues that are built on trust, honesty and communication. This kind of true synergy enables you to collaborate, achieve your collective goal and face the challenges ahead.
I believe that authentic leadership begins with:
- Enabling trust and inspiring others by being real and transparent
- Owning my mistakes and recasting them as learning opportunities
- Committing to my own self-learning and growth
- Putting my ego aside and working to empower and develop my team
The transformation into an authentic leader does not happen overnight. It’s a process of growth and experience. I would argue, and I hope my colleagues would agree, that I am a better, stronger and more effective leader today than I was 10 years ago.