I was in the bank some days ago, and for some reasons, my signature could not click with what was on the system. The only other way to ascertain if I was the real McCoy was to use my fingerprint and match with what was on the system, aka biometrics. What they were basically doing was to prove authenticity — is he who he claims he is? Is he the owner of this account? Is this the real Gabriel, a Doppelgänger or Jibril or Jibrin or …
Being authentic is a leadership attribute that cannot be neglected. If you are not authentic, your followers will respect your title and not your person. At the cornerstone of authenticity is self-awareness — knowing your abilities, weakness and not-so-great attributes. You will add character, values and self-knowledge as foundational requirements to live the authentic life.
Authenticity comes from the fact that you can be trusted. That does not mean you will always have the right opinion, make the right calls or take the appropriate decisions. It means that you are ready to be corrected. It means you are ready to change your mind when superior arguments backed with fact and data show up. It means you can say sorry when you are wrong.
While some may see this as a sign of vulnerability, a true leader knows that this is one of the most precious tools in his/her toolkit. It comes from the self-awareness that you can be wrong and as such stand to be corrected.
The benefit of being authentic is that there is no pressure. It removes pressure from you and presents the single version of the truth. When you have said the truth, there is no other story to be told. While trying to improve and be the best version of yourself, you first accept the fact that you are a point “A” on this journey to point “H”. You accept where you are and who you are. This is taking responsibility. With that knowledge, you can then start the journey. This enables you to track improvements, plateaus and dips.
“If you’re your authentic self, you have no competition.”
My favourite example of being an authentic person/leader comes from biblical history. It is about an unlikely fellow called “John, the Wild Honey Eater,” aka “John, the Baptist”. He was known as a man who stood for the truth no matter whose ox was gored. An issue ensued, and this was to test John’s character. Read on. My text is from Mark 11: 28–31
29 Jesus replied, “I’ll tell you if you answer one question!
30 What about John the Baptist? Was he sent by God, or not? Answer me!”
31 They talked it over among themselves. “If we reply that God sent him, then he will say, ‘All right, why didn’t you accept him?’
32 But if we say God didn’t send him, then the people will start a riot.” (For the people all believed strongly that John was a prophet.)
The moral of the story — everyone knew who John was and what he represented. You may not like John for whatsoever reason, but you could not doubt who he was. The verse said that all the people knew. I am sure you know some people like this. You may not like A, B, C and D about them but in some areas of life, you cannot deny that they are the best that you know. I will round up my article with some tips on being authentic.
- Don’t Try to Be Authentic; Be Authentic — No need trying bro/sis. As Nike said, “Just Do It”. Be! Focus on what you want to be authentic on and develop it. Is it a character flaw or a debilitating habit? Just go ahead and develop what it takes to be authentic.
- To Thyself Be True — The authentic will not be able to satisfy everyone, despite your best attempt. Know your limits and work within it. That does not mean you should limit thyself. It simply states that you should create the boundaries required for you to succeed. If you need to outsource the task or ask for help; by all means, do.
- The Authentic Being Is Flawed — You will make mistakes. Some of your attempt at humour will fall flat or hurt others. Your best thought out decision will sometimes be wrong. You will be misunderstood. You will be criticized. You will be judged. That is all ok. All in all, this will not change the core of who you are and what you represent.
- You Can Say “No” — Yes, you can! … And heaven will not melt. Being able to turn down things will help your focus and dependability.
- “I Don’t Know” — The authentic person knows that “I don’t know is a valid” answer. It does not make you dumb except your ego is as big as outdoors, but rather it provides learning or researching opportunity.
Everyone is looking for an authentic person to be real with. Please provide the person. Lee Laccoca, the legendary CEO of both Chrysler and Ford, said that everyone is looking for leadership and is willing to be led. I will add that they want to be led by authentic leaders.
Actually, it is in your enlightened self-interest to be authentic.
To thy self be true.
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