During the course of my executive coaching, I assign my clients a book by Parker J. Palmer Ph.D, entitled “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. The significance of this reading assignment is that the author captures introspective insights that are very applicable in connecting with one’s self-awareness and authenticity, which is an essential element to one’s growth as a leader. Many of the selected insights and perspectives provided in the passages below are to be credited directly to Dr. Palmer’s book, his personal journey shared, and ever so timely in this era of self-reflection and resignation. My intention in writing this blog is to recognize this body of work for others and further expound on these selected insights, by applying them in the form of the Five Tips for Leaders to Remain Authentic.
As leaders, we wield the power of casting either shadows or light into peoples’ lives… Good leadership requires reconciling our own inner shadows and light to connect with those we lead with authenticity. Leadership is a journey that is not for the faint of heart. We learn to sustain ourselves with positive thinking and seek to project confidence by doing so. Consequently, we can often fail to look introspectively inward to our own shadows and light and lose touch with our selfhood. We find comfort in believing that our efforts are always well-intended and that our power is exercised with compassion. Moreover, we can reconcile ourselves to think that the problem is with those we are trying to lead versus our inability to connect with their needs.
Leaders need professional skills to manage the external world and introspective skills to journey inward toward their own shadows and light to fully embrace the human condition of the people around them. Those of us who gravitate to leadership positions tend toward extroversion, often ignoring what is occurring within us as individuals. We excel at compartmentalizing our thoughts and fears and separating them from our leadership persona. In doing so, we lose our authenticity, humanity and create shadows that distort our understanding of the needs of those we impact. We try to compensate for this darkness with the power of positive thinking. After all, that is what is expected of conventional leaders.
Though this is a time where conventional styles work the best. Amid what has become defined as the resignation age, in which people are recovering from a pandemic driven survival mode and increasingly seeking to find more fulfillment in their work, it is now more than ever vital that we as leaders understand our inner shadows, find our selfhood, and project the light that is within us as leaders with authenticity.
Five tips for leaders to remain authentic:
- Reflect on what truths you embody and what values you represent.
- Remain conscious and aware of your own emotional and psychological needs.
- Remember that you, as a leader, are not defined by the title or position you hold but gifted with the opportunity to shed light through your unique inner wisdom.
- Remain mindful that our selfhood and being authentic requires us to embrace what makes us different from others, recognize our unique strengths and frailties, and acknowledge our own needs and goals.
- Remember that we are human beings and that it is import to not lose sight of our authenticity by embracing our selfhood and thereby shed light into the life of those around us. *
Citation: Palmer, Parker J. Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Jossey-Bass, 2000