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June 27, 2016

Being Authentic Isn’t a License to be an SOB

We all probably know someone who has a “This is me – take it or leave it” attitude. They might hide behind the cloak of authenticity when they share just about everything on their mind, and just about everything they feel. Or, the person who is a “I’m a leader and I’m mad, which gives me the right to yell at people and be mean.”

As Sophia sings in her centerpiece song in the broadway musical, The Color Purple, “Hell No!” This is her refrain after Celie tells Harpo to beat Sophia to get her to listen to him.

In the Best Interest of Others

Respectful authenticity isn’t about doing whatever you want and not caring about the people around you. Respectfully authentic leaders are sensitive to others' needs. They’re looking at the best interests of others. What they’re not doing is focusing solely on themselves, and are careful not to take authenticity too far.

tweet-button-2015.pngRespectfully authentic #leaders are sensitive to others' needs. They’re looking at the best interests of others.

As they share their truths with what I call quiet courage, they flex their leadership style. They consider what the audience can understand, process and make use of. Giving someone information they have little way to process or to understand can just create confusion and anxiety. 

Be Planful and Purposeful

All this requires reflection on your part before you speak or act. Respectfully authentic leaders have a filter between what they think and what they say. In other words, you have to be planful and purposeful (you can’t wing it), which allows you to respond in a more grounded way. When you do, you can trust yourself more and be more confident when you know you’ve thought things through.

Understand Your Audience

From a communication standpoint, authentic leaders understand the audience and context, and then flex their style to meet the needs of their audience. While this might sound like communications 101 to be audience-focused, it’s not common practice. One of the most common mistakes leaders make is to communicate from their perspective. We’re all clear in our heads what we think. Moving someone to action isn’t about what we think; it’s about helping someone else think differently so they then act.

And in today’s world with more and more tough and/or crucial conversations that need to happen, being able to share our truths in a way that people can hear them has never been more important.

How are you doing in tapping your quiet courage as you share your truths with others?

—David Grossman

Tag(s): Leadership

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