The internet and social media are abuzz with what good leadership looks like. When we google ‘Good Leadership’ we get 2,73,00,00,000 results and ‘Great Leadership’ generates 2,78,00,00,000 results!
But there is one simple truth that stands out above all, which is a Leader’s secret sauce for success — it lies in ‘Being Authentic’.
‘Being Authentic’ means Knowing and Being who you are- the real and unique you, both consistently and fearlessly.
To many of us being ‘who we are’ is a scary thought! We have a fear of not being good enough and sometimes we suffer from the imposter syndrome. So, we perceive it to be safer to wear a mask and hide our true selves underneath it, complying with expectations of who we think we should/ought to be in our roles. Unmasking and showcasing our true nature can mean one feels vulnerable to criticism, rejection, and failing expectations.
As a result, we close people off from the most important aspect of ourselves, which in reality pulls at their heartstrings — our humanness!
You are born to be ‘UNIQUELY YOU’; with your talents, strengths, weaknesses, shortcomings and your unique way of seeing the world and this is your secret sauce!
Accepting yourself fully helps you in accepting other people more easily for who they are. Your humanness connects people to you because you convey the powerful message that people have the permission to be human and authentic around you. This is a very liberating experience for others. When people feel accepted and well received by you, it brings the best out of them.
On the other hand, if you struggle with accepting yourself fully it can lead you to strive for perfection to protect that part of yourself that feels ‘not enough’. This desire for perfection can lead you to build walls around you as a Leader because your standards become your expectations from others, creating stress and panic amongst the people around you.
A Powerful story about Connecting With Vulnerability
John Maxwell author, speaker, and Leadership Coach relates an interesting story about a time when he was invited by the CEO of an organization to talk to his teams. After his first successful talk, John got invited a second time. Halfway through his talk, John knew something was wrong, he was not connecting to the audience like before. He just could not understand why. Later when he shared his observation with his host, he was told in a very respectful manner that while the speech was excellent it was a repeat of last year! The CEO was very gracious, but John felt deeply disturbed when he learned this.
John followed a system in which he would share the topics of his speech with his secretary on every occasion and she would record it so that he did not repeat them, but on this occasion, they had slipped up.
When John met the CEO for dinner that night, he requested him to join the CEO’s morning meeting so that he could apologize to everyone. The CEO felt it was not necessary, the speech was a very good one and it reinforced an important message but John insisted. He felt in his heart, he had to do it.
So, he joined the meeting the next day and told the group that he had made a terrible mistake and was sorry! By allowing himself to be vulnerable and admitting to his slip up John revealed his human side and courage to the audience. The next year John did not charge the CEO for delivering a speech on a new topic, thereby earning his trust to deliver value.
John allowed his heart and core values to guide him in this situation.
Think of a time when you were in the presence of someone who you consider authentic. How did you feel around the person? What was the connection you felt to the person?
What is your secret sauce?
Anchoring in your true self calls for self-awareness and living the core values that guide you at all times. When your external behaviour and communication are in congruence with what you are feeling and thinking inside, people sense it and you earn their trust. This is also an important tenet of Executive Presence, which is about your impact on others.
Bringing your whole self to the workplace and operating from there requires courage and empathy for yourself. In the words of Emma Stone — “What sets you apart can sometimes feel like a burden and it’s not. And a lot of the time, it’s what makes you great.”
Here are four questions to help you think about what is your secret sauce.
- If you could be totally free, who would you be?
- What stops you from being that person?
- If you could be that person, what unique gifts would you be offering others? Define your secret sauce in two to three sentences.
- How can YOU be more of you?
People want to see the real YOU behind the title and connect with the human being vs just the Leader because it creates resonance with them.’ The Authentic You’ is your secret sauce and when used in your interactions generously, it creates trust and credibility giving you and your relationships more power.
Payal Rajaratnam is a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation who has coached leaders and professionals across diverse industries since 2015.
Additionally, she also holds expertise in Emotional Intelligence coaching while supporting women leaders to step into their power. Her understanding of both the practical and emotional side of Leadership has brought her appreciation for her empathetic nature, enabling her clients to explore their reality with courage and vulnerability.