“Can Real Authenticity Lead The Way To Super Performance?”
What is Authenticity & how do you recognise it?
Oprah Winfrey famously said,
“I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have clearly done it a lot earlier”!
That’s a great line, wholly authentic and I don’t think any of us would argue with the notion that being authentic can also make you rich both emotionally and spiritually as well.
Most people associate authenticity with being true to oneself – or, in leadership terms, ‘Walking the Talk’.
What though do we really mean by Authenticity?
Well firstly let’s look at what two great singers, Gil Scott-Heron & Sammy Davis Junior, had to say about it. Both of their songs come from the early 1970′s – Perhaps a ‘Blue Period’ forAuthenticity?
In Sammy’s particular song on the subject entitled, ‘I’ve Got To Be Me’ – The lyric runs, “What else can I be, but what I am”. The fact that he followed that up with the song, ‘You Can Count On Me’, which famously married the Hawaii Five-O theme tune with words should have earned him triple points on the ‘Self Awareness & Authenticity’ Richter Scale!
Meanwhile, Gil’s song entitled, ‘When You Are Who You Are’ - Has a lyric which includes the lines,
“Every Morning When You Wake Up You Put On A New Disguise…You Always Go Out Of Your Way To Impress Me…But You Can Be So Very Beautiful When You Are Who You Are’.
Genuine Authenticity however is rather more than how you feel about yourself and how accepting of yourself you may be – You’ve been to Boot Camp – You’ve done Socrates & ‘The Unexamined Live is Unlivable’ - but true Authenticity is not self-centred; in fact you must not only be comfortable with yourself, you must also be comfortable connecting with others.
Being Authentic is, “Knowing then acting on what is true or real inside you”, but as Robert Goffee & Gareth Jones point out, “To attract followers a Leader must be many things to many people and the trick is to pull that off whilst remaining true to yourself”. As they say, whilst it’s easy to work out who’s Authentic and who’s not, it’s not so simple to recognise it in yourself.
The Mudd Partnership believes that Authentic People and Authentic Leaders are who they say they are, they have a point of view and are comfortable speaking their mind, being both transparent and flexible, & they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the Authentic Leader and together with an openness and flexibility are strengths which create a positive and attractive energy. Authentic Leaders are also willing and comfortable with merging their professional and personal lives, which is becoming evermore the expectation & an everyday occurrence with the increasing reach-in & reach-across of social media.
Bill George in his 2003 book, ‘Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering The Secrets Of Creating Lasting Value’, argued that ‘Authentic Leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently and lead with their hearts as well as their heads”. Regular followers of the work of The Mudd Partnership & our Blogs will know that this has a great deal of resonance for us and what we deliver and model through our practice.
We believe that passion is a powerful force and the stronger it becomes the greater the potential for growth and performance above and beyond the norm. If you bring passion into the workplace you can create remarkable advantages which you can amplify by seeking to surprise & delight, innovate and confound expectations - & a Leader who can couple this with the genuine power of Storytelling will be both a great and compelling Authentic Leader.
An Authentic Leader will understand the power of narrative – it’s DNA and how it can inform, influence and persuade. Part of the human condition is to be obsessed with stories, probably because these mirror our lives and are metaphors for our hopes & fears, successes & failures. An Authentic Leader will also be connected with their personal story – the key events, messages and people who have shaped who they are today
The fabric of an Organisation or Business, as complex as it is, will be stitched together by some pretty simple stories which are all part of the richly woven threads of any tangible system, corporate entity or physical place. These stories can be about what the employer and the candidate exchange during an interview. These stories can be about the Brand; custom and practice, triumphs and disasters, &, past & present employees. They are legion and they are legend. They are intrinsic to the culture – the artefacts & the architecture – and can be used to motivate and drive forward change. They can also be used to impede & dissemble, slow things down or protect the status quo. If powerful enough & part of a culture of success however, all these stories will resonate with customers, clients and employees who will link aspects of their personal and professional lives with those narratives and carry the story on!
As we pointed out in a previous Blog Storytelling is just as important whether you are a small business or the Leader of a Council, CEO, or Chair of a major organisation: You will need to set a vision; define culture and values; inspire and teach important lessons: You will also need to be prepared to explain who you are and what you believe in & the Authentic Leader is ready and well able to do this because they are genuine people who are true to themselves and what they believe in. They are comfortable in their skin and as the French might say, “Ils Adapte Un Peau”.
Authentic Leaders are acutely aware of not becoming the politics of the Organisation and are more concerned about serving others then they are about their own success or recognition and here, of course, is a direct parallel with Servant Leadership. They also develop genuine connections with others, engender trust by being transparent and getting support for their initiatives & are consistent, aligning their head, mouth heart and feet: And because they are trusted they are able to motivate people to higher levels of performance by empowering them to lead, which results in High Performing Teams & Super Performing Organisations & Businesses.
As David S Gilbert Smith wrote in his book, ‘Winning Hearts & Minds’ – “All leadership starts with oneself, with learning to know and control oneself first” & so again we have a further link with Self Leadership & Emotional Intelligence which we have discussed in other Blogs.
Ultimately, the Authentic Individual & the Authentic Leader have applied themselves to the arts of Self Knowledge, Self Awareness & Self Mastery and they have developed the courage to say No, which can be just as important as saying Yes!
So, in summary what are the five key characteristics that define both Authenticity & Authentic Leadership? Well, Bill George suggests the following & The Mudd Partnership rather agrees & ensures that these all inform our Leadership Development work with High Performing Teams, Individuals & Executive Boards:
- Demonstrating Self-Discipline;
- Practicing Solid Values;
- Leading with the Heart;
- Establishing Connected Relationships; &
- Pursuing Purpose with Passion
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STOP PRESS: Keep Watching Out for The Mudd Partnership Takeaway – A continuing Series of Blogs and Guest Blogs, e-Zines, You Tube posts & Digests bringing to you, “Inspiring Ideas 4 An Inspiring Life @Work @Play”: And Remember we are also now developing a Series of Super Performance Events which will be Happening at The Mudd Partnership Place from early Autumn, so watch this space & follow us on Twitter @muddpartnership for further details.