As a professor of leadership and a coach, I started with the philosophy that good leadership focused on a structure around a theoretical framework - that this outward focus is what made good leadership. Yet, over the years, I have come to realize that truly excellent leadership starts with individuals and groups of people willing to continually work toward excellence in their own personal leadership. After all, some of our toughest critics and most stubborn followers are essentially the person in the mirror. When we can inspire ourselves to be great we can influence the same in others.
Mahatma Gandhi stated, “If your wishes are pure, then they become true.” Being authentic is at the core of personal excellence. This means that we move past what is in front of us and shift towards what is for the greater good.
“To thy own self be true.”
As we lift the veils of our own disguises we realize that our true authentic self has much to offer this world. We also find that all those veils we have hid behind took much of our energy, leaving very little to aspire to making the larger, more positive impacts in our lives and the lives of others.
How does one start being “authentic” in their personal leadership? First, there is not one recipe so to speak; instead it looks different for each of us. Most effective leaders will tell you their journey for authenticity started by going “inward”. Yes, essentially that means you have the answers within. Learning to go inward is perhaps one of the best practices of personal excellence. It doesn’t have to be difficult; it simply requires a meditative focus and a journal handy to write the insights that arise out of the process. One of the best ways to start the journey to authentic self is to close your eyes, take several deep breaths, and ask yourself, “Truly what is the gift I bring to this world?” Wait for an answer or ask these following questions: “What have I been doing that isn’t harmonious with my authentic self? What does my authentic self REALLY need or look like?” Truly listen for what your inner self says and then write these insights down. Maintain continual breathing, keep asking these questions, and get curious! When you feel you have spent enough time, simply open your eyes. Read what you written. Reflect for a few moments and ask, “What steps will I now take to move forward on some of these insights?” Make a commitment to moving forward with this new knowledge. Continue this practice daily.
In 2004 Bill George’s book Authentic Leadership created a movement around leaders truly engaging in authentic leadership. Some of the skills of course were learning to lead from the heart, see the organization as a holist organic system, influence change with trust, and build relationships based on all of these aspects. Your journey to being authentic starts with the inward journey. As you choose to develop this, his book can assist you in developing an external framework for you to begin to transform your outer world.