A couple of months ago, I was listening to the radio when I heard a conversation between the DJ and a 6 year old boy called Nate. Nate had been awarded star of the week at school and immediately, as probably most of us would, the presenter asked him what amazing things he’d been doing to be awarded the star …
Nate’s answer was simply “just being myself”. Which stumped the presenter for a minute! My thought was “how cool is that?” And how great it was that Nate thought it entirely normal to be given star of the week for “just being himself”?
And I started to think at what age do we unlearn, or forget, to be our authentic selves? Or is it something that we are encouraged not to be through seeking praise, wanting to be liked, or wanting to avoid criticism? How often were we told not to behave in a certain way as a child and how often do we say the same to the children in our lives – and for that matter – indicate that to the people on our teams?
I’m not talking about “bad” behaviour, but the times we put pressure on children or others to behave in a certain way that is more the perceived “norm”, the appropriate way etc. And more to the point, how often do we behave in a certain way, react in a certain way, use certain language because we think that it’s the way that we should be – the perceived “right” way?
I’m sure that like me, you’ve encountered business leaders who behave in a certain way and expect the people they lead to do the same. They are dogmatic, unbending, talk over people, talk at people, are not open. And this in turn breeds similar behaviour in those around them. But very often they don’t actually know that they are behaving in that way.
I can remember Ralph Blundell telling the story of working in a large city firm when on calling the leaders on their behavior and whether they would tolerate such behavior from their children, they simply collapsed into a heap when they realised what they were doing. And without fail, these people have changed and become their authentic selves – not a persona they think they should be – and are running their businesses in an authentic way. The change in the business, their relationships in the business – business to business and often personal ones – change too.
And because leaders are people who are modelled by those following them, then such a significant change in behavior essentially becomes modelled by others or to put it the other way, it allows others to be their authentic selves as well.
In his book “The Leader of the Future”, Peter Drucker talks about being the person who you can look at in the mirror and look yourself in the eye and know that you are being authentic and true to yourself.
I know that it took me more than 40 years to realise that I wasn’t always being my authentic self – for whatever reason – and I will hold my hand up to behaviour as a manager that was not always authentic.
Sometimes I told myself the story that I had to because of pressures from others or listened to the stories that others told me about how I should be. Sometimes it was reaction to overwhelm and overload. Now I understand that actually those feelings are coming 100% from inside of me and I wasn’t always using my innate wisdom and listening to that still small voice within, which would have allowed me to be authentic all of the time.
The change that I’ve noticed in myself, my relationship with my clients, the way in which I work and the results achieved, have all shifted in being my authentic self.
I sincerely hope that Nate continues to “just be himself” for the rest of his life!
There are many great conversations to be had about being your authentic self and I’d really love to chat with anyone who’d like to understand more – you can reach me on +44 (0) 1296 681 094. I’d also like to invite you to comment here on my blog with any insights or experiences you’ve had! Of course if you’d like to share anything with me personally, then just feel free to email me me directly.
Until next time …