WOTW - The Hardest Work We Will Do As Leaders

The Hardest Work We Will Do As Leaders

In the work we do with our Women Leaders, the topic of authenticity comes up often, and in a way that reveals there is some mystery and confusion around the topic. 

Self-awareness is key to authenticity, so it’s crucial to yourself if there is an alignment between who you think you are versus how others experience you. Exploring this notion of authenticity requires honest internal conversations focusing on reacquainting yourself with knowing who you are and centering in that space. This is easy to say but can be difficult to do. Start the conversation by asking yourself the following questions: 

  • How has my personal journey contributed to the development of how I present myself to the world? 
  • What does this mean in the spaces I occupy? 
  • Am I able to clearly articulate who I am? 

Leadership is often a lonely place. Having the pressure and power to affect situations and lives can be both rewarding and daunting. Outward confidence doesn’t always equate to internal strength, and vulnerability shared doesn’t equate to weakness perceived. Many women leaders portray success with an intentionally crafted poise and the personification of invincibility, often making their true selves unrecognizable in an attempt to protect the best parts of themselves. Vulnerability is a core approach to self-activism; it takes bold, resolute, courage and it’s that courage that provides access to deeper levels of authenticity.

Think about authenticity as an evolutionary journey and a revolutionary act. 

First, give yourself space and grace to review your life and celebrate all you have done to achieve this moment and your next success. Look into your “honest mirror” and believe what your reflection shows you. This can be uncomfortable—physically and emotionally. This is when having grace for yourself is essential. Don’t hold on to your mistakes too tightly; these mistakes taught us lessons and the bumps and bruises are evidence of your trials to triumphs.

Next, who would you want to tell your story to and why? Perhaps start by thinking who is in your circle: your team, colleagues, family, friends, church, or your broader network.  Authenticity connects people, it is an opportunity to showcase your humanity and introduce yourself to the world. Don’t be selfish, the world deserves to know you. Your story could serve as a roadmap for others to use as they confront bumps and challenges in their own journey.

Next, how will you tell your story? You are both the main character and author of your story and it is your responsibility to determine how you will be thought of and remembered. If you allow others to sing songs about you, they may be off-key, and the harmony unfamiliar. Only you have full access to the most essential notes of your life; only you have the authority to determine how your authentic life will be experienced by yourself and others.  

Lastly, when you can you be your authentic self? The most critical relationship yielded is with yourself. Everywhere you go, you take You with you—you never leave You behind. Through an authentic depiction, deeper relationships are formed, nurtured, and sustained. 

Additionally, the radical act of self-love positions you to be a contributor to those who watch you, experience you, and are inspired by you. To positively impact others, you must undertake the challenge and effort to first reconcile yourself. Be your biggest fan while being authentic and confident at the intersection of humility—being grounded in who you are and acknowledging where others are. Humility is the act of managing your judgment and refraining from imposing your beliefs on others while also holding space for others to assume and develop their personal and unique expression of their authenticity.

Here’s the kicker: this is some of the hardest work we’ll likely do as leaders. It can be lonely work, however when done amongst fellow warriors, it can be some of the most life-giving and transformational work we’ll do. When we do it together, we gain insights and inspiration from others. When we do it together, we have access to best practices that will help us tell our own story. When we do it together, we can imagine how we would tell our story by hearing others’. As Nancy will often say; “It’s okay to be amazed with yourself and be your Number One fan. Practice makes Purpose.” What an amazing mantra to live by!

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