Imagine a large bedroom and in the far corner is a tall wardrobe—–several feet tall, about four feet wide, and a few feet deep. The upper compartment stores a number of jackets and long garments, while the lower area holds drawers with folded clothes and various personal items. Imagine opening the wardrobe and a wave of fresh air washes across your face. Keeping the door open a moment longer, you realize there is a breeze flowing from that wardrobe. Curious, you reach with both hands into the center of the garments, spread your hands apart and slide the clothes to either side. You see light!
Many of you recognize that this might have been what Lucy Pevensie experienced in C.S. Lewis’ classic novel, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. For a more contemporary image, many of you see the parallel to The Doctor’s Tardis—London police box on the outside and massively large space and time travel craft on the inside. In both cases, the inside (wardrobe or Tardis) is a doorway to another world of wonder, and sometimes terror, while the outside is plain and unassuming.
There is a lack of consistency between the outward appearance and the inner experience.
Some people are like this. What’s on the outside doesn’t match the inside. They are inauthentic.
In the cases of Lewis’ fictional wardrobe and The Doctor’s Tardis, what’s on the outside is innocuous and what’s on the inside is fantastical. Unfortunately, in the case of people, the mismatch is usually something quite different. What’s on the outside appears fantastical, but what’s on the inside turns out to be rather plain, or worse. In people, this lack of consistency leads to confusion, conflict, and broken relationships.
Followers and other leaders want to experience consistency between the internal and external dimensions of a leader. This is authenticity. When leaders are authentic they foster trust; they develop a culture of safety and security; they inspire innovation and risk taking; they encourage communication.
In short, authentic leaders develop leaders.
How can leaders develop authenticity? In the book The Catalyst Leader, Brad Lomenick presented 7 best practices for cultivating the trait of authenticity. They are:
- Practice self-awareness—Develop a strong and accurate knowledge of your strengths, weaknesses, and blindspots.
- Question yourself—Challenge yourself with introspective and honest questions such as Whose attention do you crave? Whose approval do you seek? What do you not like about yourself? and others.
- Move from self-promotion to storytelling—Stop building your brand and start telling real stories from your experience.
- Resist the urge to create a digital alter ego—Don’t let Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media become an outlet for building a false you.
- Learn to laugh at yourself—Don’t take yourself too seriously. Laugh at your own mistakes and others will be less judgmental, too.
- Build a support network—Surround yourself with honest people.
- Be interested over interesting—Focus on others, not yourself.
The trait of authenticity is consistently rated as one of the most-desired traits of leaders. Authenticity in leadership creates a foundation for a healthy culture of trusting relationships.
Start building your authenticity by asking a few of your peers and followers to give you feedback on the list above.
Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at]LeadStrategic.com with your questions.