Leadership development and teaching can be quite focused on external behaviors. Find a trusted mentor to guide you; volunteer for challenging and visible projects; try a new confidence-building trick, like standing in a bathroom stall with your hands on your hips before an important meeting. This well-intentioned advice has its merits, but it’s statically focused on one message: “Be different.” I’d like to propose an alternate idea: being yourself at work is the surest way to become a powerful leader.
At some point, an exclusive focus on external effort hits a plateau. You find that repeating mantras to yourself and pushing harder at work not only aren’t helping you to reach a new level in your career, but may even be backfiring. You’re tired, overworked and worn out. You’re living a double life, where you’re one person at work and someone else at home. You take on more projects that you can handle, or experience strained relationships with colleagues. As you look into your career future, you see a blank space, or wonder, “what’s the point?” You blame yourself for not doing more to climb higher and more efficiently.
When leaders hit a career plateau and find that their work is becoming stagnant, it’s because the skills that have helped them achieve success so far are not the same skills that will continue to propel them toward new heights at work. At a certain level of work success, external behaviors are not enough. It’s time to look within.
While there may be tricks that help you increase efficiency and show up more confidently at work, they are simply that: tricks. Tricks are not the same as fully embodying a sense of leadership, and they certainly don’t increase a sense of trustworthiness among the people who work with you.
To become a powerful and transformational leader, you need bring your most authentic self to work. That means you need to be yourself. Your confidence must come from self-awareness and humility, not a shiny, fake work persona. Your relationships must be honest, your boundaries must be clear, and your words must be true.
All of this is to say that true leadership is something you grow into. It’s not a mask you quickly put on before you get in the car to go to work in the morning. It’s something you begin to embody as you develop skills to speak your truth at work. When your “yes” means yes, your “no” means no, your communication is mindful and clear, and your actions are consistent with your words, you begin to embody sincere leadership.
Being yourself will grow your career
Powerful leadership development is all about becoming clear and open about who you are in the workplace. When you consistently show your true self, you can be truly receptive to those around you. They know where you stand and believe that you’ll be open to their ideas. There is no threat to a persona you’ve built on a house of cards, because you’re being yourself. When other people have the opportunity to share their ideas in the workplace, they feel empowered to make a difference. Now, you are bestowing power upon others at work. You are becoming a better leader!
We forget so easily that being the hero can only get us so far in our careers. If we really want to grow as professionals, we must challenge ourselves to make heroes out of others. This requires a solid foundation of self-awareness, clean talk communication skills, and willingness to show our true colors at work.
Being yourself at work isn’t easy
Being yourself means being vulnerable. Very plainly, you could get hurt. After all, if you show who you really are at work, someone may not like it, and that could have consequences. If your boss doesn’t like who you are, he or she may hold you back from a promotion or give the best projects to someone else. Beyond that, we may feel sadness and anger when others reject us. It’s natural to want to avoid those feelings. If you hide behind a mask at work, rejection hurts less because it isn’t really you that’s being rejected.
Showing up authentically at work requires breaking through many fear barriers. We feel fear when we remember incidents in the past when we were not accepted. We feel fear when we consider what could happen if we don’t act a certain way at work. However, if we don’t process and challenge these fears, we won’t break through to new heights in our careers. We hold ourselves back from rewarding, fulfilling experiences that can only be achieved via authentic leadership.
Leadership development support
If you struggle with being your authentic self at work, you are not alone. It takes time to develop the tools and skills to show up powerfully without faking it. At Engaging Breakthroughs, we offer support for people who want to become more confident at work and grow in their careers in a way that is true to their values and their purpose. We empower people to align with their deepest truth.
Our new transformational leadership program, Crush Your Career: Communication Bootcamp, was designed for professionals who are ready to show up more authentically up work. They fail to speak their mind when it counts, get run over by their calendars or email inboxes, feel fear or anger with coworkers or superiors – and they’re ready for a change. This exciting new small-group program builds transformational leadership skills that empower people to grow authentically in their careers. Apply now!
|Written by Craig Tennant
Founder, Engaging Breakthroughs
Transformation Architect and Breakthrough Coach
At Engaging Breakthroughs, Craig Tennant delivers