Authenticity is a quality that comes naturally to me now. When I was young that wasn’t exactly the case. I behaved differently based on where I was and who was present. This is a very stressful way to live and I paid the price early in life. I can’t say that I know exactly when it changed for me, but authenticity has become a hallmark of the way I show up. Who you see at work when I wore the project manager hat is the same person you saw at home, church or the grocery store. People responded to this and deeply appreciate it in a world where “reality” is actually the furthest from reality you could find.
The author James Autry wrote about the power of leaders who relate their humanity to those they serve. In essence this IS the definition of authenticity. When I was a project manager, relating my humanity meant telling a bad joke in the middle of a tense moment, sharing a personal story about my wife and my daughter (and asking about other’s families), admitting mistakes when they occurred (and that was frequently) and engaging in deprecating humor from time to time.
Some might say that this weakens one’s role as leader, but similar to the experiences documented by Captain Michael Abrashoff in It’s Your Ship, I found it to be quite the opposite. This approach allows the leader to connect on a personal level with those being served and deepens the team’s commitment to their cause (i.e., project). I share the following recommendation that was recently given for me on LinkedIn by a former colleague. I debated as to whether I should include this, but in the end, the words of another highlight more effectively the power of authenticity.
“I have had the pleasure of working with excellent program managers, but some of my most memorable experiences have been in working with Jeff. The thing that stands out for me is that in my partnership in Jeff in various initiatives, we became very good friends and still maintain a high level of professionalism and focus whenever work demanded it. Even though Jeff and I worked in a client vendor relationship wherein I was part of the vendor team but at all points Jeff treated me with great respect and created a positive environment wherein I was able to maximize my inputs to the project. He also goes the extra mile in recognizing folks which goes a long way in boosting the morale of the team and willingly go the extra mile for him. It’s fair to say I will gladly go in to war with Jeff as my platoon commander as there is no person I would trust more to lead me to safety and success.”
Life changing, wouldn’t you say? Not only for me, but also for this valued team member. Our leadership can indeed improve life for hundreds, if not thousands on the planet.
You can have that kind of impact as well, by joining my “50 Leaders in 50 Days” mission. Sign up for a free one-on-one Leadership Breakthrough Strategy Session to transform your leadership and start making a dent in the universe.