The Challenge of Authenticity
We aspire to be authentic leaders, but authenticity has some serious challenges. There is an inbuilt tension between ‘adaptability’ and ‘consistency’. How do we hold a sense of who we are, in a way that honors what we deeply value, whilst also creating space to grow, adapt and expand into who we can become?
If we define authenticity in overly simple, or overly rigid terms, we can over emphasise who we are (the consistency bit) at the expense of stifling who we might become. And, in doing, so we hold ourselves back.
Yet, if we push the adaptability boundaries too far we end up feeling like an imposter. (The Imposter Syndrome is already very present for many women leaders – so anything that adds to this sense really isn’t helpful).
Not simple eh!
Authenticity is a careful balance of who we have been, who we are and who will become – an identity that changes and shifts as we step into making an increased impact in our world. (And remember when we talk about making an increased impact this could be at work, at home, in your community…anywhere where you lead!). This takes courage and action. It’s a process of experimenting, sense making, growing and shedding that continues for our whole lives.
We now think about authenticity as a beautiful, strong AND porous and elastic container. Beautiful and strong because it holds the stuff about your identity that is core to who you are. Porous and elastic because your sense of who your are is influenced by what the world needs from you, your dreams and desires and how you can expand and grow to more fully step into these.
We cannot step up, in a fast moving, complex world, in which leaders are called to make a more impactful contribution if we over prioritize ‘consistency’. We need to hold an ‘adaptable’ sense of our authenticity.