Why “Be Yourself” Isn’t The Best Advice
Authenticity is sometimes reduced to the idea of simply being yourself. This is highly misleading!
Why, you may ask?
Imagine this scenario: a leader walks into a meeting in which a pet idea is being shot down.
A “be yourself” leader would respond with immediate thoughts of frustration without filters and potentially escalate the situation unnecessarily.
A true authentic leader would ask questions first of themselves (e.g., Why am I frustrated about this idea being shot down?), then ask questions of those in the meeting (e.g., What is the benefit of not implementing this idea?), gathers data by listening, and then voices their informed thoughts.
Note that the truly authentic response may take time, which the authentic leader is not afraid to request.
The idea to “be yourself” simply encourages expressing inward thoughts as they form, which isn’t the point of authentic leadership.
The crux of authentic leadership is to work on oneself, couching ideas within the openness of growth, all the while extending the flexibility and forgiveness of continual self-development to those who follow.
If you don’t work on yourself while seeking to be authentic, you run the risk of creating an environment of leadership naivety, lack of safety and trust, and overall toxicity.
Authentic leaders work on themselves daily and express their authentic self in the framework of growth.
This provides an example and gives permission to grow and make mistakes while holding the expectation bar high.
This is the foundation of being with.