Anyone who has taken on a leadership role has experienced inauthenticity. We all do it. We get into a position of authority and must choose what kind of leader we will be. Naturally, we think of leaders we've respected and followed and begin to pattern ourselves after them. We say what they would say and do what they would do. Our meetings and check-ins, speeches and interactions, feedback and evaluation mirrors those leaders. We may even portray their mannerisms and tics.
The result is that few people follow. Why?
Followers feel disconnected and distant from an inauthentic leader.
Some realize this early on and begin to get clear about who they are. Others, myself included, take it one step further. We begin to study leadership, attend professional development, read books and articles, and learn new skills. We deploy these techniques in hopes of winning back followers and moving along the work. In the short-term this strategy may even show glimpses of success. But in the long-term it fails.
"When leaders do their best work, they don’t copy anyone. They draw on their own values and capabilities." -Robert Quinn
Authenticity is a source of power. When you know who you are, why you do what you do, what you do best, and where you thrive, this self-knowledge builds confidence and resilience. Instead of trying to be someone you're not, you become more of who you are.
More importantly, leaders who are authentic build authentic followers -- people follow the leader for the right reasons and become more authentic themselves. Authenticity breeds authenticity.
In addition, self-knowledge becomes a lens through which you see various leadership actions and behaviors and apply them while honoring who you are. In other words, you delegate according to your style, manage based on your values, and lead from a place of power born of self-awareness.
And guess what? People respond. Because we all want to follow someone genuine. These people release in us the desire and confidence to be more ourselves.
There is no greater investment you can make in your leadership development than to get really really clear about who you are.
"Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself. It's precisely that simple, and it's also that difficult." -Warren Bennis