In times of crisis it is more important than ever before to show up with authenticity. People look to their leaders for help. It’s not a time ‘where fake till you make it’ but to show up as the best version of ourselves. My mission as a leadership coach is to help people to realize their potential and Authentic Power is a big part of that development journey. ‘But how?’ you ask? This article give you some answers and tools to learn how to champion your Superpowers and step up as the leaders you want to be.
I am working with a leader of a global aviation company. I have been coaching one their Executive Vice Presidents and her regional team for years and it has been wonderful to see her grow as a leader while going up through the ranks. She is one of the most authentic leaders I know. She is self-aware, decisive and supportive. One of her strengths is she is able to flex herself from her natural behaviour style (S in DiSC = supportive, calm, steady) into other high preferences (especially D = dominant, decisive, fast, results). And she does without being fake or not believable. In fact, people at her organisation often assume D is her natural behaviour style. She manages her authenticity extremely well. Her high self-awareness and ability adapt her behaviour and communication style strengthen her leadership and directly impacts her team’s performance and organisational goals.
What is authenticity?
Let’s start with what authenticity is not. Authenticity doesn’t mean you say what comes to your mind and you stay in your natural communication and behaviour style. It’s not communicating what you would like to say in place of broadcasting a more unpopular message.
As leaders we have to lead change and that means we have to be ok with being outside of our comfort zone. We have to make tough decisions and communicate change and expectations that might be hard or challenging for people. And often that’s not comfortable, especially in a new role or setting. Herminia Ibarra describes this in her article ‘The Authenticity Paradox’ (https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox) as follows: ‘When we are unsure of ourselves or our ability to perform well or measure up in a new setting, we often retreat to familiar behaviours and style….But the only way to avoid being pigeonholed and ultimately become better leaders is to do the things that a rigidly authentic sense of self would keep us from doing.’
Where we have to ‘stay true to ourselves’ is our beliefs, values and integrity. We can push ourselves to behave and communicate in a way that’s uncomfortable for us but necessary for the cause or outcome, but ultimately we have to believe that what we are doing or say is true and right.
If we were an iceberg and people interact with us, they see the top part of the iceberg, how we communicate and our body language = our behaviour. What is underneath the water and not obvious to people is our belief system (what we think to be true), our strengths and integrity and our values (what we think to be right). Our behaviours need to be in line with our values and integrity. We ultimately need to believe that what we do and say is true and the right thing to do. There are situations where we don’t agree with what has been decided (by other authorities or senior leadership) but we still have to manage and communicate those decisions but if these go against our belief system and integrity too often, we will not be able to lead authentically for long. So, if what we do and where we work is in line with what we believe in most of the time, we can shift our behaviour and communication for maximum impact without coming across fake or without authenticity.
What is authentic Power?
Authentic Power is when you when you champion your superpower, show up with gravitas and step into your best self. It’s being hyper aware of your strengths, talents, values, purpose and mission and acting upon it. I love the story of Oprah who had a difficult upbringing and started out at a local news station in Baltimore. Using her Authentic Power Oprah has grown into one of the most influential and most famous celebrities in the world. She is known for her good heart, listening to and helping people. She is never fake. If you ask people who work with her they say the same as the people to watch her from afar. She inspires people around the world to be their best selves. One her quotes: ‘You are here not to shrink down less, but to blossom into more of who you really are.’ – Oprah
Everything starts with self-awareness. In order to step into your authentic power, you have to know what your superpowers are. There are a few ways to go about it. Make a list of your strengths, both your character strengths and your skills and traits. Write down as many as possible and circle 3 strengths you feel most aligned with. Also ask people you work and live with. Often, we are not the best at judging ourselves including naming our strengths. I remember that my coaching peers gave me my superpowers through my stories and how they experienced me in the training. My superpowers are: Confidence, Energy and Warmth. I would have not picked warmth although I know that I am but it’s not obvious. And it’s a reason why people want to coach with me so knowing this is part of my Authentic Power is vital for myself and my business.
You can also use diagnostics like https://www.viacharacter.org/ which is a free and popular tool.
Connect your strengths with your values. Our values are our non-negotiables. It’s what we stand for and what we don’t stand for. Remember earlier we talked about how what is underneath the iceberg builds the foundation of our power. Make a list of values, brainstorm with colleagues or your coach. Circle your top 3 values that front and centre for you.
Then explore ‘impact’. Create clarity and a plan how you want to use your authentic power to influence others. Ask yourself these questions:
How do I want to show up (behaviour)?
What is important right now?
How do I want to impact my career/the organisation?
Who is my audience?
What do people need from me?
Use emotional intelligence -EQ (ability to perceive, understand, express, reason with and manage emotions with oneself and others) first and then Social Intelligence -SQ (tuning into others) to influence with your Authentic Power rather than your authority.
In times of crisis authority can be lower or non-existent but people look to influential, non-positional leadership more than ever before. It’s the best time to use your Authentic Power to make courageous decisions, lead change and support your teams with strength and gravitas.
Ask for feedback: great leaders use continuous feedback to grow and develop. Ask for feedback, your line manager, your peers, your reporting team, your stakeholders.
Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to chat about Authentic Power workshops.