We are all leaders in some capacity, and what we bring to our leadership role is a blend of who we are both outside of work and within our organizations. Being clear on what really matters to you and why enables you to be consistent in how you make important decisions and especially how you communicate your decisions to those you care about. This clarity and consistency are known as authenticity, and without it, you risk confusion and lack of trust by people who look to you for leadership.
Authenticity means different things to different people, but one thing generally holds true. When we encounter an authentic person, especially someone in a leadership position, we tend to be drawn to them because we believe them to be reliable, dependable, trustworthy, genuine and real. If you sometimes struggle to understand why others don’t get on board with your decisions, you might benefit from exploring ways to strengthen your authenticity muscle and thus becoming a more effective leader.
At the heart of authenticity is understanding your personal core values. What values are most important to you? How are you honoring your core values in communication and decision-making? These are big questions and deserve a bit of uninterrupted time going through the process to get clear on the answers.
Many people immediately think of core values as obvious — honesty, integrity, family, faith and so on. Those are all enviable values but what does it mean to live them? An exercise in exploring other values and answering the question of why they matter to you can be valuable. A Google search for “sample list of core values” will result in multiple lists you can use as a start. Find a list of around 50 core values and quickly go through them marking no more than 10 that really resonate with you.
Next, take some time for deeper reflection. List three to five life experiences that made you feel really wonderful. Then go even deeper and describe how those experiences made you feel. Did you feel satisfied, proud, peaceful, energized, etc.? Now go in the opposite direction and list three to five of your “hot buttons” and describe how they make you feel — sad, disappointed, angry, helpless, etc.
Once you have thoughtfully reflected on your actual responses to life events, go back to your 10 core values and take just 30 seconds to narrow the list down to five. Now take another 30 seconds and narrow the list to two. You will find that of your original 10, most can be expressed through your top two.
Now that you are clear on your personal core values, this is where the fun begins! You can begin to ask yourself how your core values are reflected in your work, your family, your service and even your hobbies. When you are faced with tough decisions about what to say yes to, test your options against your core values. As your life and leadership become more aligned with your core values, you naturally become more authentic. Then, as you enter each new phase of life, you can repeat this exercise to see how your values naturally shift with time and life circumstances. Enjoy the journey to living and leading an authentic life!