What Does Authenticity Mean for Women Leaders?

Successful women share a single, defining characteristic that, once embraced, usually define a turning point in their success.

Once they embrace their natural gifts and revel in their true identity, their success takes off.

For some, this means they have to come to terms with long-lost passions and decide that pursuing them is more fulfilling than playing it safe.

Some will have to untangle tightly-woven relationships and let go of people they've collected over the years - people who no longer enhance their lives, or who create drama, turmoil, and chaos.

But once they align their identity, image, and actions - who they are, how they appear, and how they behave - it's hard not to achieve greatness.

Authenticity is the willingness to be seen.
And oh if it were only easy to achieve.

Most of us have spent a lifetime developing armor to protect ourselves from the slings and arrows of our critics. Our numbers include the "people pleasers" who chide themselves every time they hesitate or wait for permission, as well as those who believe being accepted by a group - any group - is better than being alone.

"If only I had the guts to say what I really think and do what I really want."

"I just wish I didn't care so much about what everyone thought."

Authenticity doesn’t mean you have no standards – it’s not about “letting it all hang out,” showing your worst self, or being crude, crass, impolite, vulgar, or unpolished.

It means being true to what you value and showing up as your best self, appropriate for the occasion.

To be authentic, you must be willing to be vulnerable.

Scary? Indeed.

Contrary to what you may believe about vulnerability, it is the birthplace of your greatest strength. Vulnerability is not weakness – it is emotional risk, the truest form of courage.

Risking exposure of our true identity means we allow ourselves to be seen. And in so doing, we give others a means of relating and connecting to us; of knowing they are not alone.

Reflection Questions:

What is the most inauthentic thing about you or your leadership right now?

If instead, it was congruent with what you truly value, what would improve?

Why be yourself?

When you embrace who you really are, you will find a new sense of freedom, boundless energy, and the opportunity to maximize your potential.

But the most important reason to release your attachment to pleasing others is that not being “true to you” it is stifling, causes you to play small, and prevents you from being the best leader you can be.

But It’s Risky To Be Authentic…

Of course it is - to be authentic, you must deliberately choose to go against the accepted norm. Because of that, it is likely you will be judged, ridiculed, and mocked. You may experience loss, including people you think you value but who are keeping you trapped in a charade.

It is a basic human need to want to “fit in.” But when we try to fit in with the wrong group we become nothing more than a persona – it’s a charade, a trap, and it is exhausting.

The Right Fit

If you have ever felt like you didn’t fit in, you were probably trying to belong to a group of people who were not like you. To finally feel at home, you must do two things:

Gravitate toward those people who already share your true interests and values or define the center of your own group and attract others to it.

It’s exhilarating to be with people who value you for who you are. You will know you are with others who value the same things when you feel like you can exhale, you do not have to be on your guard, and when your thoughts, opinion, humor, ideas, and interests are applauded and not demeaned.

List the top 5 people you are trying (or still trying!) to please or whose approval you continue to seek.

What would your life be like if they were no longer in your life?

What would be different or better?

What would you change?

What interests, work, hobbies, or habits would you pursue?

What would you no longer be afraid to try or to tell people?


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