How authentic should you be?

When working alongside my clients, predominantly School Principals, Senior Leadership Teams and University Leaders, I emphasise the importance of developing and demonstrating “authentic leadership” – that ability to know themselves, to lead with an awareness of their own shortcomings and to develop the skill of communicating clearly, empathically and with a genuine desire to understand the people with whom they are communicating. There is no doubt that on the world leadership stage at present we have Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, demonstrating this with every interaction.

During my mentoring I ask my clients to work at deeply understanding themselves, both their strengths and vulnerabilities and not to be afraid of sharing some of these thoughts with the people they are working with and for. I encourage my clients not to be afraid of admitting mistakes out of fear of looking weak or “not in control.” Such authentic honesty is powerful as it helps build honest and open relationships. Interestingly, in today’s environment, discussing this concept with numerous clients has uncovered a slightly different perspective. While authentic leadership is known to lead to higher levels of psychological well being, enhanced trust between colleagues and usually elevated performance, in todays unprecedented times this authenticity is being questioned by some. At the beginning of the Covid pandemic…..everyone was in a new space. No one had the answers, all were required to put their personal egos away and everyone needed to work together to define new possibilities. Now we are in a different stage – the second stage requires leadership to re align, re gain and re establish a level of calm, a feeling of being centred and an adequate level of being resourced.

This is where the MENTOR or COACH is invaluable.

Maybe today is NOT the day to display your vulnerability. Maybe today is not when we display the authenticity we usually ask for but paradoxically a different type of leadership is needed. Your complete authentic, vulnerable self may not be what you wish to show at this time…… becomes a very strong moment for Leaders. Using your Mentor/Coach as your trusted confidant at this time is vital. You can share your inner reality, your worry and insecurities in a safe space using your mentor/coach as a “container” – a space where you can seek reassurance and gain strength. “Leaning into” the uncertainty is possibly better shared with your mentor/coach rather than with your entire team.

Authentic Vulnerability is for Normal Times but today is not Normal Time!

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