As leaders how many of us bravely stick our necks out with the aim of inspiring others by revealing our power? Gone are the days when the same old models of leadership motivate teams or lift performance. The best leaders are natural, they are confident and they are themselves. The problem is that most of us use false strategies to demonstrate these qualities rather than our true nature, and so you end up with over controlling egotistical leaders who use adrenalin to get through and whose communication skills loose the respect of their teams.
Decades of model based leadership training have created a whole population of masks. We assess the masks. We use personality testing to understand them. To be the best leaders we have to take the masks off and, instead of being the person we believe others wish to see, be ourselves.
We are all big softies. You can try to deny it but inside of us all is a vulnerability that we save for those nearest and dearest to us or hide just for ourselves in the hope that we won’t get found out. When this vulnerability is experienced fearfully it creates a lack of self-confidence and in cases enormous self-consciousness. The minute we become self-conscious our demeanour changes, we become actors on a stage cherry picking behaviours from our observational library of what we have seen others do well or even use our imagination to portray our own vision of the perfect leader. We wobble, we push, and we lose our intuition and mask our personal power. Suddenly it is all about us. We act defensively and lose grounded perspective.
So how can we experience ourselves and our vulnerability with acceptance? The pressure for results through others and the challenges of managing people, let alone leading them create a culture of pace, stress, actions and mind based working.
We have to be brave and trust that as we express who we really are and erase the line that we have created between the” us at work” and the “us at home” that this “us” is the very best person that we can be. But first we have to remove the false strategies. Ego, control, arrogance, assertiveness, the mask, all used extensively to build up false confidence by leaders. Our reliance on our past successes will only hold us back from an inspiring depth of experience that we gain from fully expressing our true nature.
When we bring depth to our interactions and make work a personal experience we open our intuition. Strong, creative, kind, expressive people are attractive and we all like them. List the qualities of an inspiring leader and you see words like positive, hardworking, thoughtful, independent, confident, happy, common sense, encouraging. These are all qualities that every person has in their armoury naturally in the right environment with the right people. Outside of work when we are with people whose company we enjoy we let go, we lose self-consciousness and we become ourselves. We become kind, expressive and confident. We naturally ask about others, we listen, we encourage and we are not afraid to share our personal experiences and how we feel.
Emotional strength and the courage to drop the act and be ourselves are at the heart of a successful leadership plan. Rather than creating an image, let your image be a reflection of yourself. Rather than planning what you will say at a company briefing, say what you really feel in that moment. If you have to plan, do it because it is what you are actually about rather than a control strategy to ensure that you say everything that you should.
It is so refreshing to meet the real person. Let the real person be you and as a leader you will inspire others to lead too
Liz Villani is the Managing Director of Courageous Success, a fast growing leading edge development consultancy that aims to reveal the best in people and teach us to do the same with others.