The Hard Truths About Authentic Leadership

By Jim Woods


Thank you very much sharing. Jim 

Thank you very much sharing. Jim 

In business, we still yearn for intimate relationships that strengthens us emotionally and physically. As we desire for more success we tend to be competitive leading us not knowing how to build intimate workplace connections. We forge a façade protecting our authentic heart. We become belittling, blameful and shaming others so we can feel a bit safer.

I had this problem for nearly a lifetime. Authentically pulling people to me while yielding to my fearful self only to push them back. Wanting love and intimacy yet afraid of revealing too much of myself in the attainment; “If people know me will they like me?”

We dissuade people from liking us in pursuit to being that person incongruent with our gentle yearning self, pleading to be loved and accepted. Blocking our authentic self that would create the right soil for tender relationships to grow. If this sounds like a declaration it is. My losses combined with a resolve compelled me to accept complete responsibility for my life. My duty was for more than myself. Looking for a speaker or training webinar?

Caring for the people in my charge led me to rethink relationships personally and organizationally. It took me years of failure and tremendous loneliness to act on my behavior which I mischaracterized as a strength. Below are a few reasons why as well as how we can make progress forward:

Our longing to safely project an image

We all should be leaders. Being authentic then, shows the us inside yearning to be released. Why I hid myself for much of my life is appalling. There was more I could offer instead of seeing leadership as a continuing battle between us versus them. I have been hurt by people I trusted. So, have you! Hence, I “learned” to weaponize my feelings against showing my tender yearning vulnerable self. We unconsciously object to exposing the authentic self because we have been shamed by someone whose approval we sought. The subsequent rejection appeared when we authentically expressed fears and pain. So, we shield those parts that make us truly human. Over the years we heard messages albeit whispered that we weren’t thin enough, smart enough, attractive enough. Replacing courage with pseudo-courageous words, “I am defective and unworthy; in need of repair”

 I then, like you spent considerable time wielding a public persona that I believed the world expected of successful persons and leaders. I falsely believed this façade would give me the love and acceptance I secretly yearned.

The personal persona long to be freed. I was broken on the inside while glistening on the outside.

Smokey Robinson of the Miracles penned a successful song for Motown Called Tears of a Clown. The lonely introspective moments of leadership could have had this song written for us. Here is a refrain:

“Now if I appear to be carefree

It's only to camouflage my sadness

And honey to shield my pride I try

To cover this hurt with a show of gladness.” Courtesy Motown

Beneath this effort are the stilled cries of the vulnerable self. We sadly incorrectly perceive the vulnerable aspects to be inappropriate for leadership. How wrong we are.

Perceiving Rejection

A leader with an authentic heart doesn’t worry about being the smartest person in the room. Have you felt this way? That if I show my real self I won’t be effective. I will be seen as weak; broken; a failure.

As a leader, the frequent rejections did more than propel me upwards. They trained me to hide my feelings and desires sub rosa.  This possibly keeps us safe but it also isolates us from love and those colleagues who want to accept us. They perceive us as hiding something. Yes, our authenticity of making the personal persona our public persona.

Is there a chance for us?

We can heal from scars of wounding relationships and betrayals privately and in the workplace. If I were to mention self-soothing the first impulse is isolation by cultivating self. We are going to find safety within ourselves by trusting and embracing others. Meaning we will be kind, move people forward or alongside us but never behind.

When we conclude everyone is out to take our job, mate or see us fail we shape an insecure world dismantling. A wounded self creates a world of victimization. We are not objects on a chess board moved only by others. There are far more people cheering for us than jeering at us.

As a leader or employee, we feel if “they really knew me they would be disgusted.”

When we feel on the inside that we are distasteful we hide ourselves. We unsuccessfully attempt to cover our caring, understanding, asking questions, being mindful, and thoughts because we are convinced that we are after all unlovable and tremendously undesirable. We misunderstand that our goals can be achieved by giving in. Allowing people to love us. As I type I continue to wrestle with this.

Interestingly, a leader may not realize this is the case. What is the adage? “It’s everybody else. Not me.” I can’t get through to these people.”

In meetings, our insecurities are revealed by a lack of participation, no one objecting to your ideas. No counterproposals. You receive a constant flow of agreement without considerable alternative viewpoints which people and an organization require to remain competitive. Did you notice that this drum beat is achieved through people? Not competition. As success is not a zero-sum game. Many have similar hidden personal persona yearning to be heard and understood because of them and despite them.

When we use our authentic self, we show it is better to be than to do. The corollary is people began to act as team members who delight in challenging ideas; they aren’t frustrated with customer concerns because they have seen empathy in you.

It is often said we need to love the self. But we need to understand our self more. Not just to follow the image we desire found in heroes or books but simply be our inner self.

Meaning a title has a larger definition than building things. We are lifting people who change communities and the world. Jim

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Jim Woods is a successful leadership trainer and speaker and executive coach. He speaks on employee engagement, leadership and change management, leading instead of managing and customer service. He is an author, a former fifth grade and university teacher with an impressive resume. He is beloved by audiences. To schedule a speaking engagement with Jim please schedule an engagement here. Go>. Connect with him on TwitterFacebook, and Linkedin.