One of the good things about Sherly Sanderg’s book Lean In was that she included tons of research and relevant stats which can silence those who still think:
* there is already an equal playing field – women have equal chances for promotion
* we don’t need more women in leadership positions anyway.
Many people agree that authenticity is a critical leadership quality, yet the culture of the organisations many women work for means that it’s almost impossible to expect women to be authentic leaders when operating in an inauthentic environment.
What do we mean by authenticity anyway? We have to decide for ourselves – do we believe we have an authentic core, or do we need to uncover it? Can we start from scratch and learn, study and adopt ideas and philosophies and implant them as it were inside us? What exactly is our journey to authenticity? Can it be taught? Can it be learned?
Self-awareness leads to authentic leadership
I believe it’s possible to teach and support women so they become more self-aware and make choices about how they want to be as authentic leaders. Of all the things I have read and heard about leadership, it’s self-awareness that’s mentioned most often.
I see the journey to authenticity as being a journey to the centre of the self. Our authentic self is linked to our best self – our highest self which is already in us somewhere. The leadership journey is to find the path back to it whether that be through a physical, emotional, mental or spiritual route. If leadership is about ‘being’ more than ‘doing’, then surely we have to get as close as we can to that ‘being’ and operate from there. If we are to know ourselves then we must allow time for self-reflection, reading, rumination, and examination.
But if self-awareness and authenticity is important for all leaders, why the emphasis on women?
Many women want to develop a leadership style that best reflects their more natural feminine gender base while at the same time being seen as credible. This issue of leadership style and ‘fit’ is one of the main reasons women choose to not put themselves forward, or if they do, find that their new role is difficult and stressful. The demands of leadership require the ability to demonstrate confidence, self-assurance, decisiveness, and a strong focus on results.
As women managers move towards becoming future leaders, they need to have the ability to communicate a strong presence and be able to handle and initiate challenges with significant presentation and influencing abilities. It’s critical that women learn to manage themselves and their messages so they project a strong presence while maintaining their authentic feminine preferences and characteristics.