Forget Boisterous Bravado. Three Tips for Authentic Leadership

by | Jan 17, 2016

01-18Last week, I participated in my first speaker showcase. More than 20 speakers provided ten minutes of their program to a room full of 200 meeting planners. Hearing different a motivational christian speaker throughout the day it brought nerves on. It was like speed dating for speakers. I practiced and prepared like crazy for my ten minutes. But I was unprepared for the onslaught of speakers.
There were those with boisterous bravado, theatrical hijinks, and yelling into the microphone. They had the audience laughing and clapping. “Uh-oh,” I thought. I began to doubt my program. Was I loud enough? Was I funny enough? Was I dramatic enough? What could I do to be more like them?

As one of the loudest, highest jumping, biggest bravado speakers finished, a petite young woman walked on stage. Kim Lear, soft-spoken, calm, no theatrics, and with deep content, was a breath of fresh air. We spoke later. She, too, felt the pressure to be louder, funnier and more dramatic. She faced a decision about her program. Did she adjust, tweak and mimic the others or stick with her work? She opted to be herself – a researcher on cultural shifts and their impact on organizations. She chose authenticity in the face of pressure to change.

Okay…I get it. You are not speaking at a showcase event. But you are surrounded by other managers with a wide variety of styles. There are the managers who are brash and bold, slash and burn, considered and thoughtful, methodical and analytical, or absent and disinterested. Perhaps the brash and bold get more attention; the absent and disinterested don’t work as hard but are paid the same. The pressure can mount to become more like “them.”

Here are three tips maintain authentic leadership:

  1. Know your objective. The jump -off-the-stage, swing-from-the-chandelier speakers have a place. For planners seeking on-your-feet motivation, they are a perfect choice. However, loud isn’t always better. It depends on the objective. What is your objective in leading your organization? If you need to make dramatic changes, then brash and bold may be called for. If you seek a long-term culture shift, slow and consistent pays off. If you lead a battered, unmotivated workforce, then supportive and encouraging will help. Whatever it is, you need to be clear on your objective in order to thoughtfully choose the approach that most positions you and your organization for success.
  2. Use your values to meet the objective. Maybe you’re thinking, “If I’m going to change styles to meet the objective, then how is that being authentic?” Authenticity comes from your core values. Your values influence behavior, choices and decisions. For example, maybe you face a situation where motivation is key. You wish you were brash and bold like other managers, but you’re not. In that situation, find your passion and recognize what you care about and why. Your authentic style of motivation comes from deeply held beliefs. People can sense deeply held beliefs. It motivates as surely as swinging from the chandelier. In fact, it’s probably more lasting. Find your values that match the objective and lead from that place.
  3. Stick with who you are. Thanks to my discussion with Kim, I regained confidence in the value of my work and my program. I realized that my objective was different. Some motivational speakers come to an organization, do a rousing job and are done. I’m not one and done. I care deeply that the message of enhancing decision-making by combining thinking and feeling as essential to success in leadership and life. My objective is to share information that has practical applicability to an organization over the long-term. And, you know what? That’s enough. What drives you; gives you passion; and makes you want to go to work? That’s where your authenticity lives. Let your values guide decision-making and your passion lead others. Passion doesn’t have to be expressed through a megaphone. Have confidence in you to be you.

Thank you, Kim, for the inspiring words and for embodying authentic leadership.

If you haven’t already, check out Kim’s website. She’s an authentic, high content researcher and speaker.


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Author Byline: Founder and CEO of Blue Fjord Leaders, Shelley Row P.E. CSP, was named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top 100 leadership speakers. Professional engineer and former senior executive, she was recognized as one of the best minds in advanced traffic management systems.

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