Many leaders today feel great pressure to succeed, and as a result, create and accept a pseudo-self. This is a version of them that hides their warts and magnifies their best traits. Unfortunately, those who know us best and even those who simply work with us every day see right through this. They recognize our true self and know we’re not embracing that person. We won’t reach our full potential by investing energy into creating false versions of ourselves.
Here are some best practices I’ve found helpful to cultivate the essential leadership trait of authenticity:
1. Practice self-awareness.
Before you can release your true self you have to recognize your true self. Too many people refuse to accept and even name their weaknesses, struggles, and pitfalls. As a result, they accept a version of themselves they believe others will like better. Understand who you really are.
2. Question yourself.
I encourage leaders to evaluate their self-acceptance with honest questions: Whose attention do you crave? Are you chasing the approval of friends, colleagues, and customers? What is it you don’t like about yourself, and how can that shortcoming also be a strength? Self-diagnosis can lead to self-discovery, which is the only path to authenticity.
3. Move from self-promotion to storytelling.
I can appreciate the effort made by individuals in the public eye to shape their personal brands. But I also worry about the effects this can have on living an authentic life. If you want to be a change-maker, begin to see public outlets as places for sharing your personal story.
4. Resist the urge to create a digital alter ego.
Refuse to hide behind a website or Facebook page. Instead, adopt the mindset of Claire Diaz Ortiz, social innovation director for Twitter: “Social media is not just about being connected. It’s about being trans-parent, intimate, and honest.”
5. Learn to laugh at yourself.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Instead, grow comfortable enough with who you are to laugh and laugh often. When you are able to accept and even chuckle at your blunders and mess-ups, others will too. And this common experience will help you bond with them.
6. Build a support network.
Beware of the temptation to surround yourself with flatterers who only tell you what you want to hear. Keep honest people in your life that can help you stay grounded and keep from thinking you’ve arrived.