by Matthew Jones
Republished from Inc, June 8, 2018
If you think that a job title is what gives you power to influence and inspire others, you’re holding yourself back. Restricting your growth. And falling short of achieving your full potential.
When I think about leaders–and I’ve encountered many, each with their own unique styles and attributes–I think about one trait above all else. Authenticity.
Congruence between values and actions is one of the most important qualities of influential leaders. It’s that congruence that motivates you to become your best self.
Have you ever encountered an authentic leader? Someone whose voice resonates with their heart when they speak, to such an extent that you get goosebumps? Someone who, even if you disagree with, you respect and seek to emulate?
I have. And it’s truly incredible. When you’re in the company of someone who speaks and embodies their truth, regardless of how similar or different their opinion is from yours, you can feel their presence.
It’s palpable. When spending time with these leaders, their genuine confidence in their thoughts and feelings helps you clarify your own. It’s as if they model their decision-making process and, through doing so, reveal yours. It’s amazing.
And the reason these individuals have such significant influence isn’t because of what they say. To only focus on the “what” is to severely underestimate and underappreciate the “why.” Looking at the content overlooks the process of their efficacy.
Take a step back. The real reason you’re moved by these leaders is because leadership comes from the people themselves. It has nothing to do with what they say. And everything to do with who they are.
When you consistently do what you say, practice what you preach, and live according to your values something amazing happens. You start speaking and living as truth.
Instead of regurgitating inspirational quotes, you start speaking from the heart. You share unique wisdom that only comes from lived experience. You embody that which you hope to inspire in others.
And when all of those traits converge, you develop a palpable presence. Who you are naturally radiates and transmits to others on an unconscious level. People are drawn to you, but they might not know why.
People naturally trust you. Follow you. Listen to you. And no matter who you encounter, they respect you–even in disagreement. Because you don’t just speak truth, you live it.
That type of leadership cannot be purchased. It doesn’t come from expensive suits, excessive praise, good PR, or daily affirmations. It doesn’t come from speaking workshops or reading leadership articles. It comes from genuine self-growth.
From knowing yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, and areas of growth–and using that emotional awareness to inform your actions.
Real leadership comes from within. Listening to who you are, what you value, and most importantly, what you feel.
Being a leader requires you to trust your instincts. Listen to your intuition. And take action aligned with those sources of knowledge. That’s what leads to congruence and authenticity.
Most leaders develop several of these traits instinctively from a young age. They were raised in families that required them to take more responsibility than others at their age. But that’s not the end of the story.
To take those natural inkling’s and transform them into polished leadership takes exposure. Many failures. And learning from your mistakes.
People who do that can come quite a long way on their own.
They naturally engage in self-reflection and aim to learn about themselves in each situation. But at a certain point, usually after having experienced success for several years, they need an outside perspective.
Because being that influential–like all things in life–has a shadow: people stop giving you unfiltered feedback.
You get so used to solving problems that you stop prioritizing time to sit with your emotions. You keep chasing solutions instead of focusing on the process that manifested your greatness in the first place. And all of those factors lead to a slight gap between who you think you are and who you actually are.
That’s when you need a coach. Someone to help hold space for you to get in touch with your feelings. Get in tune with your intuition. And engage in self-reflection without focusing on solutions, but instead embracing the process of vulnerability.
Authentic leadership is not easy. As you can see, it requires an integration between natural tendencies and substantial self-growth.
Doing what you say and inspiring others to do the same is likely the hardest road to walk. Because that means you can’t fake it–you have to be it. You have to continue prioritizing your own growth while simultaneously sprinting through each day at your top speed.
That requires consistency, focus, and determination. But in the end, that’s what makes authenticity so inspiring.