The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines authentic as “real or genuine, not copied or false, true and accurate, made to be or look just like an original”. It further states that he who is authentic must be deemed “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character”.
It is simply amazing how easily a leader can find himself fitting a prescribed mould designated for him and as a result, become someone other than himself. One thing I’ve always believed is that a leader must always be true to himself. Reality is, he is more effective when he is authentically himself every moment of his day. These then are a few myths that I consider responsible for a leader being less than true to himself.
Myth 1: You have to play the role
This unfortunate conundrum does not only rob the leader of his identity but also of his integrity. Imagine being on a stage all day long. Not even actors do that. Some leaders are forced because of organisational pressures to appear to be who they are not. I’ve learnt that every stern disposition or unapproachable demeanour is not necessarily the person that you interact with on a one-to-one basis. Instead of influencing organisational culture, the opposite often occurs. Some leaders just know how to play the role well; don’t be one.
Myth 2: You are what you do
There’s a belief that as a leader you are expected to carry a persona that communicates the message that what you do is who you are. We are multi-faceted beings and frankly, it’s generally best for you to leave your job description at work. Surely your family prefers to interact with you, the spouse or dad, and not you, the executive. Learn to divorce the two, not just for you alone, but also for those significant others in your life.
Myth 3: You can do everything.
It is unfortunate that some leaders prefer to give the impression that they are Superman or Superwoman. They give the impression that they are the only reason the organisation is as far as it is and that they were individually responsible for its successes. Reminder: No one person has all the requisite skills to execute any task. We need others around us. Instead of trying to do everything ourselves, we need to learn what it means to develop and empower those around us to accomplish our goals more efficiently and effectively.
Our task as leaders is then that we remain true to ourselves. As Polonius once so ably said, “This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man”. The world is waiting for the real you to arise!