The Day I Chose Authenticity

Being an authentic leader is about knowing who you are, your principles and values.  By inviting the trust of others by being known and through honest relationships, authentic leaders can improve long-term individual and business performance.

Authenticity in Leadership - the background

As Bill George found when researching his ground-breaking work True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership, authenticity comes from your own life story and real life experiences re-framing your leadership values.

My story..

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I remember the day I chose authenticity (all of the time) well. I was working as Head of Talent & Leadership at the BBC and I had been asked to present my recommendations and ideas around talent management at a leadership meeting.  

I had joined the BBC the previous year after a three-month interview process – the end of which I believed I was being offered my dream job.  I remember on the first day being overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation for being offered such a prestigious role.  

At the time I was going through a significant personal challenge and I was excited about being able to focus my attention on helping the BBC drive change.  What I hadn’t anticipated was the impact my beliefs and personal values would have on my ability to perform.  If I am honest I felt slightly out of my depth – politically and culturally - and I began to compromise myself to fit into the organisation.  

I met some amazing people and have absolute respect for the complexities of the BBC.  I did however start to become something that I wasn’t and lost my energy, vitality, and, in the end, value for myself.  

On the day in question, the presentation was a disaster – I had planned a one-hour presentation and was then asked to condense it down to ten minutes.  Upon reflection I would have responded very differently but in the moment, I lost my power.  I tried to deliver what would have been one hour’s worth of content in ten minutes.  I remember thinking, 'I can’t do this', but said I could.  I retreated, lost my personal power and most certainly wasn’t authentic in my delivery, confidence and expertise in the subject. 

Without giving myself too much of a hard time, I certainly didn't display my normal leadership potential and if I had been in the audience I am sure I would have judged the delivery quite harshly.  

It was however a golden nugget!   

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After processing the emotions of the day I was able to make some significant decisions about myself, and my career, which have enabled me to become the authentic leader I am today. I left the BBC soon after that – a difficult decision to make as I felt that I had failed in some way.  

But in fact, the event was a fantastic turning point in my life and career.

'After that day I made a promise to trust my emotions more, believe in myself as imperfect and human, and do whatever it takes to ensure that I am always authentic.  When I choose to be authentic as a leader - all of my relationships flourish.'  

I am passionate about helping others, whether individuals or leadership teams, to be really clear about what their authenticity is.  I believe that emotionally intelligent leaders are AUTHENTIC. And that authentic leaders are successful.

My top tips for being an authentic leader:

  1. Connect with people and show them who you really are - imperfect and human.
  2. Show your vulnerability – we live in world that wants perfection and through my experience this isn’t achievable.  We can however achieve brilliance and fulfil our potential if we let go of the idea that we have to be perfect.
  3. Embrace who you are, your personality preferences, your history, your weaknesses and strengths. 
  4. Trust your emotions – they provide you with a wealth of information if you are willing to listen to them.
  5. Develop your Self-Regard and Personal Power and value others equally.

Have a look at the website for more information about running an Authenticity Workshop

Amanda Wildman - Emotionally-i-Fit

Amanda Wildman - Director of Emotionally-i-Fit is an expert in Emotional Intelligence and leadership development. 

Emotionally-i-Fit runs assessments, coaching programmes, workshops and leadership retreats that help leaders and organisations to measure and develop the 16 metrics of Emotional Intelligence.