In my latest Cancer Conversations Facebook Live, I explored authenticity and authentic leadership.
The perfect example of authentic leadership
Over the last few weeks, Gareth Southgate has been the perfect role model for anybody who aspires to authentic leadership. But what do I mean by ‘authentic leadership’.
Two years ago, I learnt something new about myself and discovered that authenticity is one of my core values. Since then, I have spent a lot of time exploring what authenticity means to me. When you think of authenticity, you might be thinking of something different.
The Oxford Living Dictionaries tell us that authenticity is “The quality of being authentic“. And ‘authentic’ means “Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine“.
I am most certainly not a copy! Nor Gareth Southgate.
Authentic leadership for challenging situations
Authenticity is powerful stuff when you’re dealing with a challenging situation, whether you’re manager of the English football team (Gareth Southgate) or recovering from breast cancer surgery (me). But it’s not just for dealing with adversity. Authenticity is how I live my life. The good times, not just the bad times.
When I talk about authenticity in an individual or a leader, I’m talking about somebody who is:
- Authenticity means being real, and genuine, but realistic. Not setting yourself up for unrealistic goals. Big hairy goals? Oh yes, absolutely, I’m a big fan of those. However you cannot genuinely strive to achieve the unachievable. Winning the World Cup? Was that unachievable? No I don’t think so. A stretch, yes for 2018, but not unrealistic. Whereas getting out of the group stages and into the quarter finals – extremely realistic.
High emotional intelligence
- Being authentic is not simply about being who you are and saying what you think. There’s more to it than that. If we said exactly what we want and what we think, the world would be in pretty poor shape. It’s about ‘how’ you say it, and having the awareness of how others might receive what you say.It is about having high emotional intelligence to be able to adapt and adjust your language and behaviour in different situations.
Accepting of themselves
- It’s about being realistic, yes but also accepting of yourself. And of others too. Accepting your mistakes, your challenges as well as your strengths. An authentic leader is accepting of their team too.
- An authentic leader is thoughtful. She cares about the people around her. The ones who work for her and alongside her. The ones who come into conflict with her.Last night, we watched Gareth take care of his players and staff, but also the English fans. He walked round to each of his players at the end and encouraged them to stand up and applaud the fans. That is thoughtfulness personified.
Open to learning
- Authenticity means that you are open to learning – learning from your mistakes or failures and learning from others. Did you see the article I shared on my Facebook page about how psychology is being used to create a more resilient and happier England team with the introduction of Pippa Grange. This is a fabulous example of how Gareth is learning from his experiences and from others to create a stronger and more resilient team. On the pitch, your emotional strength and wellness is just as important as the physical.
Expresses emotions openly and freely
- An authentic leader is not afraid to express her emotions openly and freely. That doesn’t mean you stomp around shouting at everybody or crying at every lost opportunity. It is being comfortable with your own emotions and feelings. Accepting them for what they are. Not trying to bottle them up.
Those then are the essential qualities of authenticity and authentic leadership: being realistic, having high emotional intelligence, accepting of yourself, thoughtful, open to learning and the ability to express emotions openly and freely.
What about you? What would you add to the list of qualities for an authentic leader such as Gareth Southgate?