“Authenticity is your most precious commodity as a leader” – Marcus Buckingham
Authenticity in leadership requires courage because leaders take risks to realize their vision and take responsibility for their mistakes. The word courage is from “Coeur,” the French word for heart. Good leaders put their heart into motivating developing and challenging people to navigate difficulties and uncertainties together; they risk being disappointed and even betrayed. Authenticity in leadership takes courage and is certainly not for the faint of heart.
It takes courage to be a good leader and courage is contagious. Courage is inspiring because it’s demonstrated. If you want to be inspired, watch what good leaders do and how they conduct themselves under pressure, you’ll see them make the tough calls and follow through with integrity.
Courage Begins on the Inside
I remember the classic movie the Wizard of Oz and watching it numerous times as a child. My favorite character by far is the Cowardly Lion, in his first encounter with Dorothy he’s slapped in the face and called a coward for attempting to bite Dorothy’s dog, Toto.
In no way does the Cowardly Lion represent the king of beasts. In dire need of a healthy dose of self-awareness, the Cowardly Lion accompanies Dorothy on her journey to see the Wizard, hoping to receive the courage he thinks he so desperately needs.
Fearful, timid and insecure, The Cowardly Lion still demonstrates courage several times on his journey with Dorothy, Scarecrow and the Tinman, showing that he has it in him. His insecurity and lack of self-awareness prevent him from acknowledging who he is and what he has so he can just be himself.
The Cowardly Lion pictures many successful, talented leaders who, despite a track record of achievement, are fearful of the future and are sure failure awaits them around each turn.
Leading From the Heart Takes Courage
Being clear on your values, building trust with your people, and knowing your strengths and weaknesses are foundational to courageous leadership. Leading from the heart requires courage because it requires transparency. Honesty with yourself gives you the courage, to be honest with others.
You demonstrate courageous leadership when you’re comfortable being transparent all the time. If you’re uncertain, say it when asked, if you need help, admit it, and give your team an opportunity to step up and meet the challenge.
I’m not a complicated person; traits like authenticity, vulnerability, and love for others are simple but not always easy. Here are four reasons I choose the simple practice of authenticity in leadership
“Authenticity starts in the heart” – Brian D’Angelo
1. Authenticity Never Pretends
Like the Cowardly Lion going after Toto (a small dog), some leaders fear the vulnerability that honesty brings and put on a good act until they get slapped by a reality check. Being vulnerable has nothing to do with weakness, it’s wisdom in truthfulness, and it takes courage to understand it and be comfortable with it.
2. Truthfulness Never Needs a Cover Story
In my experience, when being truthful and vulnerable, I have never been criticized, attacked or experienced an attempt to be taken advantage of by honest and courageous leaders, just fearful and insecure ones, to no avail.
I’ve found that wisdom in truthfulness protects you, removing any upper hand an otherwise manipulative person might think they have in taking advantage of a perceived weakness. Some leaders aren’t comfortable in their own skin.
3. Lead with an Open Heart
Experience has taught me that transparency and weakness have nothing in common. It takes courage not weakness to be honest when it isn’t popular to do so. Honesty is the best policy in leadership because it builds trust with your people and saves you from being humiliated by having deceptions exposed. Leading with an open heart takes courage and earns respect in the long run.
4. Be Courageous Be Transparent
I admit that it’s a risk being transparent, not to your career as a leader but, to the possibility of no buy-in from some talented team members. That’s a risk I’m willing to take upfront as opposed to a year or so down the road. Not being transparent is being disingenuous; it takes courage to live by your convictions. I’ll bet on authenticity and vulnerability every time.
“Authenticity requires a certain measure of vulnerability, transparency, and integrity” – Janet Louise Stephenson