Authenticity in Leadership – The Power of WE

Authenticity is a collection of choices we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” -Brene Brown

Authenticity – What does this word mean to you as an entrepreneur?  I asked several women how they would define authenticity. From corporate execs to stay at home moms to professional peace builders, from wilderness guides to non-profit executive directors to school teachers, from small business owners to movers and shakers in a variety of industries.

Here are the common threads I heard. Authenticity is showing up as I am, speaking truth, trusting my intuition, being present in this moment, acting from a deeper knowing than my momentary feelings, embracing imperfection, tuning into my gut, holding onto my deepest truth no matter what others think or how scary that gets.

Most of these ideas revolve around one answer in particular: “Staying inside my skin.” In my work as an Integral Life Coach, I call this being at home in ourselves.

Vocabulary.com defines authenticity as the quality of being genuine or real…the state of being authentic, or legitimate and true. The same website defines authentic as real or genuine, not counterfeit. And it lists reliable and trustworthy as synonyms.

So how does this translate for us as women entrepreneurs? How can we express authenticity – show up as real and genuine – with our clients, customers, employees and colleagues as we develop our products and services? And why is authenticity as entrepreneurs even important at all?

Here are 5 things you can do to increase authenticity in your business(es):

1. Identify, define and write down your core values for yourself as an entrepreneur and for the vision you have for your business or organization – what is the “bottom line” for what you want to create and offer? (3-5 at most is recommended, otherwise you lose the power of this step).

2. Run EVERYTHING through these core values to see if your actions, choices and plans remain true to your vision and what matters to you as an entrepreneur.

3. Do personal work to cultivate your inner knowing and authenticity with yourself –  your connection to your innate intuition – as this will always tell you if you’re on or off track (with your message, marketing, products, services, roles, etc).

4. Get clear about your Yeses so you know when to say “No” – and SAY “NO” OFTEN in order to support your Yes(es) – your values and your vision.

5. Get clear about your Target Market/Niche and be “true” to them in the message you deliver, and in your products and services; do not try to speak to everyone, and understand that this means there will be people who do not “like” –  or may even hate –  what you offer (hint: they are not your target market).

So, why so much emphasis on “authenticity” for entrepreneurship? Because this is a point of departure for successful and unsuccessful entrepreneurs. Choosing to be an entrepreneur automatically takes out the possibility for “safety” and makes us vulnerable to risk and failure.

In order to create something new and needed and bring it to the market, we will open ourselves and our work to scrutiny. There is no way around this.

Dr. Brene Brown, author of countless books including “Dare to Lead” observes, “If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”

This is also true if you trade your authenticity for people-pleasing, the need to always be “right,” the feeling of security, and/or the need to always look or feel good.

Being authentic in business requires that we be clear about our message and our market. Identifying our target market/niche, coupled with a clear understanding of our core values, will help us sustain authenticity in our business relationships and offerings. 

Speaking our truth through our message will not work for everyone that message reaches and will even possibly anger or upset some people. This is why authenticity can feel threatening. If we fail to put ourselves out there – to make ourselves visible – then no one can hate on us. But then the audience we are trying to reach and serve with our products and services can’t see us either.

I once heard a successful entrepreneur say: “Love me or hate me – just don’t be neutral or indifferent.” So, we shouldn’t be surprised when “showing up” exposes us to negativity. Because this also means we are visible to those we truly want to engage with and serve.

And if we are being authentic with ourselves, we can drop in and care for our own hurt feelings without letting them shut us down, quit or withdraw from the courageous work of being an entrepreneur.

Living from a place of true authenticity, what Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman calls “healthy authenticity” – or “our best selves” requires daily courage and a faith in ourselves to speak and provide what is ours to give. To be an entrepreneur we must be willing to share our voice and take up space.

We need to believe that what we have to offer is of value and can stand for itself. And then we need to do everything we can to stay true to that vision and be authentic in ourselves and our work. That is how we become (and remain) trustworthy to our clients and customers without burning out or losing ourselves completely in the process. With the Covid pandemic customers trust becomes even more critical – authentic businesses ensure trust.

By Heather Barron who has been an Integral Life Coach specializing in working with women on resilience, mindset, and self-care for the past twelve years. You can find her at Luminous-Life.com, and on all the socials @luminouslifeinc

To hear more about this topic join Heather in a panel discussion Leading from a Purpose Based Authentic Heart on May 18th from noon to 1:30pm. Register

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