In Authentic Leadership

Several years ago when I was in my corporate job we were at an offsite with the CEO. The purpose of the offsite was to develop team trust within the team of peers reporting to the CEO. We were to give the CEO and each other feedback to clear the air and re-establish trust. Except that we spoke a lot about institutional and systemic issues about why trust was broken rather than the personal issues we had with one another. The off-site facilitator brought up the word “authenticity” and it landed on me like a ton of bricks. I had a deep sense as I heard the word that I needed to investigate this concept better. I got to work the next day with my 200 e-mails and completely forgot about it. Fast forward several years and I want to share with you three lessons I’ve learned about authenticity from my new book “Wired for Authenticity”. I’m excited to report that it will be out in the end of May, 2015.

They say you teach what you need to learn. I have been inspired for a few years now to write about authenticity because of all the ways I struggle with being authentic myself. I speak about it in my workshops and notice how hard it is for corporate leaders to truly be authentic in the workplace.  Yet, it is also an incredibly energizing experience when we encounter authenticity in others and when we can find it in ourselves. Here are three lessons in authenticity I have learned from failing at it. In the book, I share many more lessons from my own experience and from that of my executive coaching clients. I share seven practices of authenticity and tools to develop and deepen this practice in your leadership and life.

Three Lessons Learned About Authenticity

Authenticity takes courage – Choosing to practice authenticity is not one grand act of courage. It is a moment by moment choice we make. In Bronnie Ware’s book “The Five Regrets of the Dying”, the hospice nurse found that the number one regret of those closest to death was “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. In the CEO team offsite, I didn’t have the courage to share the personal disappointments, betrayals, and hurts that had broken down the trust in our work relationships.

Trust is personal and we have to get personal in the workplace. In our corporate environments, it doesn’t seem very professional to get personal. What we ignore is that we are all human beings and our personal distrust and eroded relationships with one another gets in the way of our engagement and real business results. Real tools exist to have these uncomfortable personal conversations with one another, to create a safe environment to have these conversations, and confronting others with our own truth actually builds strong relationships. My goal is to share these tools with everyone so we can have more authenticity and unleashed energy in our workplaces to do the good work that inspires us.

Authenticity is a personal choice. It was easy for my peers and I to walk out that day blaming our boss for not creating the kind of safe environment that opens up courageous dialogue that creates trust. We let ourselves off the hook. There is a lot of truth in the power a leader has to set the tone for an organization’s culture through their actions. And, there is incredible power we have as individuals on a team to choose to take a small step toward authenticity, toward courage, and toward making a personal connection. They don’t have to be giant leaps, just small steps.

Over the coming weeks I will share more about the book and am grateful for your comments, for you to share your experiences, and for us together to create a community where we can bring all of who we are to be more energized, engaged, creative and inspired in our workplaces.  It is the only way to inspire and engage others on our teams. So, please subscribe and join our blog community and conversation on this topic.

Showing 11 comments
  • Vijayakrishna Maiya Polali
    Reply

    The culture established in the organization for many years would be difficult to change. However, a leader may identify the strengths of such organization culture and influence the areas where he could lead a positive, more pronounced culture. Leadership style and his ability to accommodate in the current culture and still remain focused on his intentions to lead and set a tone for a superior standards and establish a new strong cultures.

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thank you for joining the conversation Vijayakrishna! I completely agree with you that a leader has to be adept at both taking what’s working in a culture and influencing the areas where the culture can be improved. It takes wisdom, patience, and persistence!

  • Jane Kerubo
    Reply

    Henna this is a powerful truth! We are 1st human beings and our authenticity definitely has an impact on our decisions!
    For us to have service that’s excellent and even Opulent( am doing a book on OPULENCE….which according to me is the highest level of service) our Authenticity cant be ignored!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hi Jane – Wow, what a unique interpretation of opulence – the highest level of service. I look forward to finding out more about your book. Yes, we often forget that we are after all human beings with emotions and many of these emotions, rather than our rational thinking, drive our decisions in the workplace.

  • Rosanne Rotondo
    Reply

    Love this topic Henna; for me, one of the most powerful quotes is “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me”. Before a leader can be authentic in an organization, or with their team, they need to be authentic with themselves. Asking yourself the thought provoking question, “How would I live my life if no one was watching” is one of the first steps to being truly authentic. “To thine own self be true”. Looking forward to reading your book!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hi Rosanne –

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love this question “How would I live my life if no one was watching?” It strikes me that we should ask ourselves a couple of variations on this question often: “What would I do now if no one was watching?” and “Who would I be now if no one was watching?”… what I write about in the book is that our authenticity is a moment by moment choice of who we are being in that moment that is most inspiring to us – acting from our inspiration rather than our fears. Wishing you much inspiration!

  • Fahireen
    Reply

    Hi Henna, I am always impressed at your innovative lessons. However I have a question. You stated that ‘Trust is personal and we have to get personal in the workplace. ” Can you elaborate on the steps to achieve that process? I totally agree that any organization or a team to succeed it’s mandatory to have trust. My issue is that I tried to be authentic by getting personal with a nonprofit organization, in which I was one of board member. This organization was in the edge of dissolving. However even with my best efforts to build trust amongst the board, it still dissolved. My personal opinion I believe, is that I didn’t know how personal one should get to achieve a successful collaboration with the team. I hope you will cover this in your book.
    And best of luck

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Hi Fahireen – Thank you for your thought-provoking question! As I understand it you’re asking “how do I build personal trust within a team?”. The first step is getting clear about your own inspiration and goals with regard to being on the team. What do you hope to achieve, contribute, learn? The second step is getting curious about the goals and aspirations of other team members. Are their goals and aspirations aligned? The third is to observe the team dynamics and notice where there is trust and where it is broken. In my book, I talk about creating a team manifesto which allows team members to define the culture that they want to create in order to fulfill their goals and aspirations. This often involves open conversations about where trust is broken – the “old” behaviors that caused it to be broken and the “new” behaviors that the team will take on. Often some members of the team are not committed to creating these new cultures and it results in either having to move these members out or to hold them accountable. I hope this helps!

  • Samira Mairaj
    Reply

    Really looking forward to this book Henna!

    • Henna Inam
      Reply

      Thanks Samira! Can’t wait for the book to be out. I’m looking forward to getting out and speaking about the seven practices of authenticity so we can embed these practices in team cultures and create positive, productive working environments.

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