“If we are committed to the transformation of the world, we must be open and ready to be transformed in the process of transforming the world. Therefore, the challenge of change is, first and foremost, the challenge of self transformation, of inner revolution and evolution.” — Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, Founder and Chairman of Vision in Action
Your bio may be commanding, and by outward appearances, it may seem you have the bull by the horns. If you’re like many leaders, however, you frequently have to convince yourself that clear vision, infallibility, endless strength, and self-confidence are on your side. Maintaining a façade of significance is increasingly exhausting and inherently unfulfilling. It’s easy to lose your juice, your connection to what you really value, and your ability to relate with others in nourishing and productive ways. As writer Nathanial Hawthorne once said, “No man can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.”
You long to live and lead more authentically. And, in this longing, you are not alone.
Wisdom traditions, both Eastern and Western, emphasize the importance of living and leading authentically. Buddhist and Taoist teachings, as well as the works of Socrates, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, Sartre and other philosophers, note that to do so is an innate human drive. Contemporary spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen proposes that the urge to be authentic — to lead our life and conduct our work from a deeper sense of “beingness” — is an evolutionary impulse. Living this way requires becoming conscious of our selves — our motivations, passions, strengths, limitations — and operating from these, rather than from the dictates of society.
If some part of you is constantly focused on maintaining self-image, you are unable to fully receive and listen to others. You’re more focused on “managing your message,” most concerned about how you “should” speak or respond. You believe that this is the route to leadership power, but, in truth, this approach makes you fall prey to societal dictates, mores, and fads. You are bouncing from pillar to post but constantly missing your self.
Leading from authenticity allows for many more possibilities:
- You are able to reveal and share who you really are, rather than cover up or ignore your true self.
- You have more energy and attention available to genuinely listen and respond to others, the situations you face, and your own needs and aspirations.
- Because you are more secure in yourself, you are better able to be open to differences in values and opinions.
Given society’s pressures on leaders to be a particular way, leading from authenticity may seem like a courageous act of risk-taking. Ironically, it is one of the most natural things you can be and do.
Leading from authenticity requires a strong contact with your inner world, even while you stay abreast of your outer environment; it is a fundamental source of assurance and security, a movement from external to internal forms of self-definition and self-management. As one of my teachers Yoganand Michael Carroll suggests, the solution is to make your inner world so vibrant and attractive that nothing in the outer world can compete. Then you will be able to draw consistently from a safe and sustainable basis of power. The most potent solution: holding to your true self.
Howard Bloom, author in paleopsychology and mass human behavior, notes that personal transformation and cultural evolution facilitate each other. This means that the more you work on being your true self, the more you become an instrument for a healthy business and society. The more you work on improving business and society, the more you can discover about yourself. This is a powerful leadership message: When you lead fully and authentically, you are actually helping the world do the same. You pave a legitimate path for others — employees, coworkers, teams, customers, family and friends— to come to know and be who they truly are. And you embrace what is quite possibly the highest form of 21st century leadership.
Want to learn more? This blog is an excerpt from Choosing Authenticity on the Leadership Path, an article I wrote years ago. If you’d like to receive the full article or talk more about building your capabilities to lead from authenticity, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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