One key essential to the heart centered life is authenticity: the quality of being real, truthful, and genuine. Authentic people tend to be trustworthy because they consistently tune in to an inner moral compass to guide their interaction with the world around them. They make excellent leaders because their mission in the world is deliberately aligned with their most authentic personal values.
Being authentic, however, goes much deeper than sharing personal bits of information about yourself and being so vulnerable that you become an open book to the world.
Here are 5 surprising but important truths about authenticity that will help you become a leader who inspires and is highly respected:
1. Authenticity is not a leadership style, it's your character.
Leadership styles are manifestations of your responses to a particular situation. You may use an authoritative, supportive, or democratic approach to managing people in your team or resolving a problem that confronts your organization. That, however, is quite different from authenticity. To be authentic, leaders must draw from their personal values, stories, and sense of right and wrong to find their voice in the world ~ and lead from there. Leadership styles can be adjusted to the external situation. On the other hand, authenticity is grounded, leads from the heart, and inspires others to be their best.
2. Authenticity cannot be mentally constructed, it must be felt from the heart.
We cannot pretend to be authentic, in fact pretension is antithesis to being authentic. Likewise, we cannot construct a facade of authenticity regardless of how high our IQ is, how much we have achieved, or how significant our positions are. Authenticity must be felt, nurtured, and grown from the heart before it can manifest externally as a commitment to high ethical standards, empathy and sensitivity to the need of others, and determination to continuously learn and develop. This is why authenticity is one of the essential qualities of the heart-centered life.
3. There is no way that being authentic can manifest something bad.
I get it, sometimes we indulge in negative feelings, fan negative emotions, and see the world through angry pessimistic glasses. It happens to the best of us. However, this does not mean that an "inner jerk" or "inner immorality" will manifest when we try to be authentic. Far from it. Negative feelings are an indicator of how far we have drifted from our best selves, which is always good. They are a call to come back to a place of wholeness, calm, and positive feelings. There is a greater need to be authentic when we feel negative emotions by making sense of the emotion, framing and contextualizing the emotion, and finding a way to understand and own the emotion in a way that allows for personal growth. Authenticity does not manifest in negative emotions. Negative emotions are instead a call to be authentic.
4. Being an authentic leader is hard.
It is not easy to be authentic when you are in positions of leadership. Today, there is increasing calls to have leaders who are approachable, trustworthy, empathetic, warm, supportive, and encouraging. There is a call for authentic leaders but as a leader, you will sometimes have to make the executive decision to be less authentic especially when being authentic will be counterproductive in a particular situation. For example, you may have to come across as authoritative and put some distance between you and others so that your knowledge, experience, and authority is respected. In teaching law to a class of more than 100 students, I have to be authoritative most of the time to make sure that the students learn the law. The classroom is not the place to be warm and open about my personal values and welcome different perspectives about the law from my students. But there is a lot more room to be authentic with students outside the classroom, for example, in mentoring them. To be successful, we have to have a more nuanced sense of authenticity, continue to grow as leaders, and always adjust our responses to those around us.
5. Creativity builds our authenticity.
It becomes easier to be authentic when we are creative. Creativity is a messy yet centering process of turning inward towards our unique and rich reservoir of knowledge, experience, memories, stories, insight, wisdom, and world view to find inspiration and produce something that is uniquely yours. It is the process of externally manifesting what goes on internally in our minds and hearts; of making real all that we have accumulated just by being alive, human, and present in the world around us. Creativity that draws from this inner reservoir, makes us question ourselves and our values, world view, and perception of things. And the more we question ourselves, the closer we come to truly understanding ourselves. When we approach the world with a deep understanding of ourselves, we are truly authentic.
What are some creative acts that you can engage in to help you center yourself and come to a better understanding of who you are, what you stand for, and why you do the things you do?
I would love to hear your answer. Leave me a comment below and please share this blog post if you found it useful in your daily living.