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What does it mean to be authentic? We think of someone as authentic who is courageous in doing what they think is right, someone who is not afraid to speak their mind (as long as the truth doesn’t hurt anyone else), and someone who doesn’t put on fake airs or try to be something they’re not.

How many people do you know who are truly authentic?

Your answer may be “not many.” It seems that many people in our society are determined to “fake it till you make it”.

Yuck, I really hate that term. Fake it till you make it. I remember getting that advice when I was just starting out. I know it was given with compassion and to be helpful.   This advice is given when people are not feeling confident.

What would happen if your physician faked medical knowledge about your health condition—wouldn’t that put you at serious risk?

What if your lawyer faked knowledge about creating a legally binding will and your ex-wife became your sole beneficiary by default, cutting off your children without a penny?

There are many other situations such as these where professionals trying to fake it till they make it can cause serious harm or danger to others. As a business leader, faking it until you make it can cause you just as much harm in lost respect and loyalty from your peers and subordinates.

Instead be authentic. You may not get it right all the time. You may be a little uncomfortable and unconfident. But so what? You’re a human.

There needs to be much more tolerance in business for people to be truly who they are. I wore a mask for so many years working in business. I was a HR Manager so I was expected to be someone to look up to and someone who never makes a mistake.  There was an element of ‘you have to know all the answers all the time’.  And you know what…that’s extremely stressful.  I’m older and wiser now and no longer wear the mask of fake….

Here are ten things to keep in mind when being your authentic self:

  1. Point of View. Every authentic person shares his or her point of view. To not have a point of view is to let someone else create one for you. Weigh all options and opinions, and decide which point of view is best in line with your values and morals.
  2. Take a stand on things that matter. You should, but there’s a fine line between positioning yourself in office politics and actually becoming part of the political problem. Make sure that you stand for something, but don’t stand in the way of progress.
  3. Draw on Your Strengths. An authentic person knows what she’s good at and works to use and grow her strengths every day. We’ve all been told we need to improve our weaknesses, but authenticity comes from a position of strength. Use your strengths to be the best you can be.
  4. Personal Values. These are your views on life that govern your point of view and your moral fibre. This is what you believe to be true and honourable in life.
  5. Personal Behaviour. Remember that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Your behaviours are an indication of your personal values and your moral fibre. No one wants to follow a leader who doesn’t behave in accordance with his values in all situations.
  6. Build Relationships. Strive for relationships with diversity. Create friendships based on mutual beliefs, hobbies, or interests with a wide range of people and associates. This will help you establish teams and communities both inside and outside the workplace that people want to belong to.
  7. Lead From the Heart. Don’t be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve. Business is about people; leadership is about leading people. Find out who your team members are at their very core, and you’ll know how to help them excel.
  8. Be Courageous. It’s daunting to go against the crowd and speak out for your beliefs. And sometimes it’s frowned upon in the business world. But no visionary who affected major change was ever silent on the sidelines while others led.
  9. Listen Authentically. Learn how to really listen to people and try to put yourself in their shoes. You might be surprised by how much you can learn about them and yourself. You might see a side of an issue that had been previously hidden from your view.
  10. Take Care. Learn to love yourself first, and take care of your physical, emotional, and psychological well being. A balanced leader is a healthy model for everyone around her.

Be your authentic self, and there’s no need to fake it. You are more than enough.

Michelle is a success and leadership coach who works with HR professionals and business leaders who want to get real results and live & lead with purpose.  You can find out more about Michelle at www.michelletholland.com
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