Why do I keep coming back to authenticity? Why when I am trying to write my two line elevator pitch about what I do, does the word ‘authentic’ always come front of mind? I believe I am most passionate about this subject because we are inundated with ideas and images of the way we “should” look and the way we “should” show up as a leader. “Be bold!” “Be the boss you are.” “Take your seat at the table”. It all feels aggressive to me…. and I am way more on the gentler side of things. We get feedback from those above us that we need to show up this way or that. “Be more confident.” What this reads to me as someone who is not naturally inclined toward being the loudest voice in the room (or most frequent), or stating my opinion as fact, is “be less like you’. So when I think about the message and the world I want to live and work in, it is to cultivate environments where people can show up as their authentic self and have their style valued and appreciated.
Being forceful is never going to me. I influence in other ways. I influence through connections. My authentic style is leading through empathy and connection. I like to know people and have them get to know before we embark on journey together. I am more of a narrow but deep person. Which makes business development hard, since going deep is not always easy to do in a 20 minute conversation. But that aside, I am not going to change that about myself. I don’t want to. I also believe that the gentler, vulnerable Rachael makes better decisions and relates with others in a positive way, which long term, makes for much stronger outcomes. The good news is my approach isn’t for everyone. It takes all our styles and traits to create amazing outcomes. I see lots of organizations putting people in leadership positions who have executive presence, as defined by the organization, which usually equates to ‘male like’ traits of dominance, forceful, self-assuredness, and less on what we are still annoyingly referring to as “soft skills”… like communication, vulnerability, humility, inspiring others….This myopic approach that a leader looks this way or that, is what stifles creativity and growth. Diversity in thought, experiences, approaches, backgrounds, style, you name it, is what lays the foundation for ideas and execution of those ideas we never could have dreamed up alone.
Table stakes; you must get the job done. You must be competent in your role. I am not talking about that. I am talking about the manner and style in which you get it done. Somewhere along the way, being a “driver” got a nasty connotation. That if you get good outcomes and deliver it must have been on the backs of others. Not the case. I consider myself a driver. But I also know that the ways work gets done is through other people, in them feeling inspired and connected to the work and the team. When people think of the word “driver” synonymous with ‘leader’, they think of people who get outcomes despite the people. That is not what makes a leader people want to keep working for.
Now, hard talk….if you are not getting the response you desire from others, then yes, something needs to change. Maybe what needs to change is the situation you are in; you need a different crew (“but ugg Rachael, job searching is hard”). Maybe what needs to change is you. Influencing and finding alternative ways to get the results you want can be accomplished with you still showing up as your authentic self. Not changing yourself to be an image of what you think others, or the culture you are in value. There are many variations to trying things on. Piloting if you will. Small tests of change. Sidebar, leadership coaching will help.
I find when I am not being authentic and showing up differently than what is my nature, either because I am insecure, or I think this is what the environment calls for, those are the times that I ruminate the most afterward. Those are the times when my anxiety gets away from me. I hope you feel confident to know your authentic self and bring it out in any situation.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~Maya Angelou