Leading from Authenticity

I had a client a few years ago whose goal was not just to enhance his team’s performance, but to win an award for a piece of work they were completing. His vision was that his team would do an amazing job on the project, get recognized by receiving the award, be seen as experts, innovators, and leading thinkers in their field, and consequently advance in the industry. In relaying this to me, he said he could actually see himself stepping up to the podium and picking up that award. Sounds pretty good, right?

Sure, but when we began to unpack that vision during our first few sessions, he realized that what was authentically aligned in his mind was the pride of doing a great job on the project itself, of being innovative and accomplishing something exciting. It was the work, not necessarily the recognition it would bring.

What was not authentic and aligned was his impatience and the amount of pressure he was exerting onto his team to win the award. He recognized that they didn’t share his vision; they didn’t really want the award, and such a stressful atmosphere was certainly not working to change that. And for his part, he didn’t want to create a pressure-cooker; he wanted to be in the flow of a positive, inspiring project alongside his team.

We came up with a plan to reframe this vision to make it more authentic and less ego-driven. A month later I facilitated an Innovation Day for his team—an event with creative activities, engaging speakers, and productive brainstorming. Out of that session, my client and his team created a new vision of what it would take to win the award and how to have fun in the process, rather than the struggle and stress of their former approach. They went on to do fabulous work, strengthen their collaborations, and design an innovative and inspiring project. And they won the award!

This is what I dream of as an executive coach: not just a great outcome, but a fulfilling journey. They achieved their vision in a way that honored the process, kept the team engaged and excited throughout, and resulted in everyone feeling energized (rather than exhausted) at the end. Success!  

What elements of this story resonate with you?  Are you able to be fully authentic with the vision and goals you share as a leader?  What might you do differently?

Weekly Uplevel Practice

Take time this week to do an “authenticity check” as I did with my client in the story above.  There are a couple ways to check the authenticity of your vision and leadership:

  1. Ponder your intention behind the vision or goals.  Does it align with your deeper commitments and values?  Or is it mis-aligned but something you think you “should” be doing?
  2. Reflect on whether it actually feels aligned on a psychobiological level. Do your jaw, chest, or belly tighten when you think about it? Or do your shoulders drop, your muscles relax, and you feel calm?  Connect to the wisdom your body, pay attention to its indicators, and explore what it’s telling you.

Dig deep and check in with both your cognitive mind (intention/thinking) and your psychobiological state (psychology/body) and see if they come to a place of internal alignment. If they do, you will have a clear sense of the rightness of your vision and it will be authentic.