The word “leadership” has become a common buzz word with people in companies and other organizations. Many people assess their current leaders without really looking behind the curtain. When most of us think about good leaders, words and phrases like integrity, supporting and facilitating others, inspired action, confidence, and good communication come to mind. All of those are completely necessary for high-caliber leadership. A piece that we often miss, though, is what is authentic leadership?
Leadership is not one-size-fits-all. There is no perfect thing to say at the right time, no proper way to act, and no formula that can create great leadership. Instead, there are numerous styles, philosophies, and capabilities that constitute leadership. At CTI, we believe that everyone is a leader. What we mean by this is that we all have the secret sauce inside us that makes us a powerful leader and that leadership is going to look different for every person. As the 19th-century author and poet Oscar Wilde said, “Be yourself — everyone else is already taken.” This means that to be powerful leaders, we need to search inside and find what it means for each one of us to authentically lead.
To find our authenticity as a leader we must go within. One way to access more information about authentic leadership is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is a great leader I have worked with? (It may be a colleague, boss, or teacher.)
- What was it about that person’s leadership that inspired me?
- What communication style worked well with me?
- How did that person connect with me and what is important to me?
Once you have those answers, you can begin to notice what you value about that person’s leadership and how those values are important to you. Knowing and honoring our values helps us to live a fulfilling and authentic life. Tapping into our values helps us to be naturally authentic and thus lead from an authentic place. Imagine what is possible when you lead your life in accordance with your values. It drives inspiration, fulfillment, and purpose. And when you lead an inspired life, it is contagious — those around you will feel inspiration.
To be a great leader doesn’t mean you need direct reports or to run a company. Being a great leader is possible in every moment of life when we show up. We are great leaders when we are with family and friends during challenging times or with a stranger at the grocery store or showing kindness to a server. Leadership happens in every moment of every day. So the question is, how do you want to authentically lead your life?