Progressive organizations know that having clear company values helps ensure that all employees are working towards the same goals; they also support the company’s vision and shape its culture. In the emerging field of authentic leadership, progressive leaders must do the same for themselves: shape a personal set of tenets to live and lead by.
At times there will be value clashes, particularly when the organization’s stated values are not reflected in actual behavior; when they are hollow values. Working in such an organization is challenging and even demotivating for leaders who are committed to showing up authentically in the workplace. How can leaders actually be true to themselves and live their values?
The greatest challenge to staying true to our values is that we don’t really know ourselves as well as we think.
We are all the product of a lifetime of conditioning, from family and society. This ‘programming’ creates a collection of beliefs, attitudes and values about who we are and our purpose and place in the world. We believe that because we know where we come from, what we like and don’t like, our strengths and interests, or have a sense of vision and purpose, that we know who we are and what we truly value.
Do we really know ourselves?
You may have seen this quote that points to what I’m saying: “You are not what you think you are; you are not what others think you are; you are what you think others think you are.”
This quote is not telling us who we really are; it is telling us how deluded our sense of self is! It’s clouded by projections, false beliefs, conditioned values, blind faiths, double standards, prejudices, irrationalities, fears and so much more.
So how do we stay true to our self and our values, when we don’t really know who we are?
Have you ever thought deeply about this question, “Who am I?” Have you ever sat quietly and asked with sincerity and wonder about who you really are, the real you? This one simple question carries a powerful vibration. It not only helps you to discover the greater part of who you are, but it also helps you to see who you are not. When this is asked with sincerity, you begin to strip away the story and break the spell the world has taught you to believe.
Once you begin to know yourself at a more essential level, you’ll be increasingly able to stay true to that sense of self. The myriad of beliefs and values that you have been taught about who you are and the way life is, will begin to reveal themselves to be less than truthful. Is what I have been taught since childhood about responsibility, success, my value, my role in life, my identity, really true? Is that who I truly am?
The journey to being an authentic leader is the journey to ‘knowing thyself.’ And it is undeniably challenging — you must be willing to really look at your programming, the conditioned belief and value system that you have lived through for a lifetime, and question its validity and truthfulness.
Why do I experience life as I do?
What really motivates my behavior?
What do I truly value and how do I live it each day?
This inner work is not easy; it’s much easier to bypass it and get on with life. But as you consciously turn off auto-pilot and shine a light on your deluded sense of self, you start to peel away the story that you have bought into, and you come into contact with the ground of being that is the essence of you — your most authentic Self.
If you want to stay true to yourself, and live and lead authentically, you have to know the true self that you are staying true to.
Do not shy away from looking carefully all that you have been taught about who you are and the way the world (or your organization) is, and question its truthfulness. Chances are you will notice that you have been taught a heap of notions, expectations, societal norms and quasi-truths about who you are and what it means to be successful.
Coming to know the ‘I’ at the core of your being is worth more than all the accomplishments and accolades you could ever achieve. For you are living free of the ego-mind, free of ideation about how you and others ‘should’ live, and free to stay true to the truest part of you. Greater joy, lightness, and ease will arise because you are living in alignment with your real values, ones
you are consciously choosing to embody each and every day.
Leon VanderPol is the Founder of the Center for Transformational Coaching and author of A Shift in Being — The Art and Practices of Deep Transformational Coaching.
Deep Coaching takes your coaching and leadership capacities to a new level — beyond transactional, surface-level, and issue-based into a deeper realm where a far greater potential lives. Here you learn what it means to drop your identity masks in order to be your most authentic self in life and leadership.