December 2014

Be Authentic

It's Inspiring

Authenticity rules!

Authenticity originates inside an individual, even if it’s inspired from others. While we may admire a particular authentic leader and can use that person as a model or mentor, the moment we attempt to copy that person, we experience a moment of in-authenticity. However, as we learn to focus our attention on ourselves, to develop the necessary mindset and skills, we are in the process of rewiring the authentic leader within.

Our purpose at Rewire Leadership is to help all people develop their inner authentic leader. We believe that authentic leadership starts at home. If you want to lead others, it is best make sure that you are able to lead yourself well. We believe that everyone will thrive as people rewire themselves to be more authentic.

When we left Sally and Donna last month, Sally was waiting for her friend Alex at a restaurant, while Donna has just left her first onboarding coaching session.

Let's rejoin Sally and Donna now with an eye on whether their authentic selves shine through.

Sally finds a cafe, texts Alex, then waits. She has another glass of wine and orders another cheese platter. She opens her phone and starts writing a list of complaints she has about this office. As she writes, she gets more and more upset. She also gets more and more confused. Sally knows that her boss, Tom, is a good guy. She knows that he has an excellent reputation. His division puts out top quality work. That's why she joined his team. She wanted to be connected with someone who was top quality. But she just can't wrap her brain around the way that everyone acts. How in the world do they get anything done? They seem to be so laid back and have so much fun. Where is their sense of professionalism?

Sally keeps going around in circles. She imagines her meeting with Tom the next morning in which she plans to tell him that she's leaving the company. She imagines that she'll tell him that she thinks he's great but her team leaves something to be desired. She just doesn't think that they respect her or are interested in accepting her as their leader. She'll tell him about the presentation slides and how they left out important data. How humiliating! She flushes again as she remembers the moment.

As she's going over this humiliation, Alex walks in. The look of concern on his face brings tears to her eyes. She holds them back but gives him a brief hug.

“At last you're here!” she says. “Thanks so much for leaving work and coming to meet me.”

Alex nods a thank you and quickly asks, “What's going on Sally? I'm concerned about you. I've never seen you so flustered.”

Sally launches into her laundry list of complaints and wrong doings. She finds fault with everyone on her team and in the leadership team except for Tom.

After Sally finishes, Alex asks, “What about Tom? What do you think of him? How is your relationship with him going?”

“I can tell he cares about me and that he's worried,” Sally answers. She sees the quizzical look on Alex's face and says, “He told me that he was concerned about me when I left the office. He wanted to meet with me and I told him that I had a lunch meeting. Then he said he would meet with me when I returned. I suggested tomorrow morning. I don't know what to tell him. I can't believe that he is working with such a group of losers.”

Alex studies Sally's face carefully. “Sally,” he says with compassion in his voice. “I think that you've finally met some people who are your match. You can't pull the wool over their eyes. They actually want to get to know you as a person, separate from the work that you do. They are real people with real feelings and thoughts. And, by the way, the entire team has a great reputation, not just Tom. I don't think you've given them a chance. What are you so afraid of?”

Sally's jaw can't drop far enough. She is astounded. “What in the world do you mean that I haven't give them a chance and they want to get to know me? How in the world do you know that? You're just as bad as they are!” Sally snaps.

Sally stands up, ready to leave. Alex stands up too and says loudly, “Sally, you aren't giving me a chance either. Please sit down and let's talk about what's really going on. I'm your friend, remember. You're treating me like I'm the enemy.”

Sally sits back down. She looks like she is going to cry, then looks really angry. She closes her eyes and starts shaking her head back and forth, her nostrils flaring, breathing deeply. “Alex, what is wrong with you and them? I just don't get it. Why doesn't everyone just focus on work and get on with it? What in the world is going on? It seems like you all drank some Kool-Aid.”

Alex takes Sally's hands in his gently and looks squarely in her eyes. “Sally, this company is the first company I've ever been with that actually treats people according to their values. They don't just have them on a card in their wallet. They really care about people. They know that people are the most important part of the equation. If they want a great quality product, then treating people well will support that outcome. If they treat people poorly and push them, they could get a quality product but it would be short-lived. People would leave since most people don't want to be treated as objects or worse, emotionally abused. Gone is the day, at least here, where it is okay to blame others, yell at them, insult or denigrate them. It is an amazing place to work. I'm sorry you aren't experiencing that.”

Sally stares at Alex as if he is from Mars. “I don't understand why you are telling me this. Do you think that I don't treat people well? Are you trying to tell me that I don't have good values? I don't get what you said has to do with my situation. You, my dear friend, are speaking Greek to me.”

There is a long pause. Both are looking at the other with eyebrows raised.

Finally Alex says, “Maybe before you leave the company you should speak with Tom. He may have some words of wisdom for you. I know you respect him and that you're going to speak with him tomorrow. Do you mind if I give him a call?”

“Absolutely not!” Sally spits out. “I would be horrified if he knew anything about this conversation. Now I wish I hadn't called you or told you anything. Promise me you won't say a word to anyone.”

Alex promises, then they pay the bill and walk out of the cafe. Alex goes back to the office and Sally goes to the headhunter's office to wait until 5:30.

While Sally is waiting to speak with James, the headhunter, let's stop in on Donna and see what's she up to...

Donna leaves her first session with her onboarding coach, Elayne, feeling good about the experience and optimistic about their future together. She knows this will help her move forward with her intentions.

Donna is reviewing the session in her head as she walks down the hall. She's paying so much attention to her thoughts that she doesn't even notice two people walking towards her until she hears them say hello. Donna looks up, surprised, and sees two of her peers, Mark and Juanita.

“Oh, hi,” Sally says, surprised. “How perfect to run into you. I just left my first session with Elayne Nooks, my onboarding coach, and one of my assignments is to get to know my peers better as well as the senior leaders. Do you have some time to spend with me over the next few days? If not, when are you free?”

Both Mark and Juanita are quick to say yes and suggest times for meeting Donna.

“Do you have a few minutes now?” Juanita asks. “We have a project we would like to discuss with you. We think you could add an important perspective.”

“Gee, I'm flattered that you're asking me,” Donna tells them. “I would love to help in any way I can.” Donna looks at her watch and tells them that she has about 20 minutes before she has to be at a meeting. They assure her that will be enough to give her a broad brush stroke and to see if she thinks that she might be able to add value.

The three of them find an area that is set up with comfortable chairs, perfect for informal conversations. As Mark and Juanita describe the project, Donna asks questions to make sure she understands. When they complete their broad brush stroke, Donna sits there quietly for a moment.

“Thank you,” Donna says, looking at each of them in turn. “Thank you so much for thinking of me. I am not only flattered, I'm deeply moved that you trust me with something of so much importance, even though you hardly know me. I would love to help with this project. Though I'm not sure how much I can add, I will definitely give it my all.”

Then Donna looks at a clock on the wall and says, “Wow! Time flies when you're having fun. Thanks alot you two. I'll look forward to your email giving me more details about the project. I look forward to working with you on it. I've got to get going now. I'll see you both later.”

The three of them get up and walk down the hall together toward their respective offices.

Let's review what Sally and Donna are doing through the lens of authenticity. But first, it's important to give you our definition of authenticity. The words genuine and real are often used to define authenticity. For us at Rewire Leadership, it is being your true self without your defenses. Though reacting defensively is often a part of a person's personality, it is not, as far as we at RLI think, the authentic part. Defenses are developed to deal with fear. When we leave fear and drop into a place of ease and thriving, our authentic self emerges. It is from this place that innovation, creativity, connectedness, healthy relationships, kindness, and much more emerge.

Sally, sadly to say, is tied up with fear and is reacting all over the place. She thinks she is being authentic when she displays her outrage and blames. However, we at RLI see that she is functioning from a stressed, fearful place and is displaying a great variety of defenses. Even with Alex, her good friend, she is reticent to and doesn't get vulnerable. She simply stays in blame and uses displacement (the critic) to find fault with everyone. She takes no personal responsibility for what she is experiencing. She remains focused on looking good (though to us and to Alex, she doesn't look very good) and making others look bad.

Donna, on the other hand, is very genuine. She is not shy about showing her pleasure or surprise at being invited to participate in a project with her colleagues. She doesn't hesitate to tell them that she is doing onboarding coaching and that she has assignments to get to know them better. What you see is what you get. She is able to admit when she doesn't know things, she can get curious, she is a good listener, and she expresses gratitude easily. She doesn't make excuses for herself. She simply tells the truth about herself and what she is doing. Compared to Sally, she is a breath of fresh air.

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