Expand your executive capacity by increasing your emotional authenticity

Dr. Michael O’Brien
You don't need to present an inauthentic version of yourself to lead effectively.

Be the authentic leader you already are – not the one you are pretending to be.

We live and work in a culture obsessed with controlling "the narrative" and building a personal brand. Much of our lives are spent carefully cultivating an image of ourselves that we project to the outside world, whether it's through disseminating our deepest thoughts on Facebook or Twitter or by positioning or inflating our accomplishments on professional websites like LinkedIn. Because of this, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing ourselves as self-made creations.

This "fake it 'till you make it" drive has some advantages: Fortune does often favor the brave, and sometimes we need to puff ourselves up a little before we make that first big step into the unknown. But along with this act of self-creation comes drawbacks – namely, you obscure emotional truths from others and yourself. Looking at these truths head-on is key to expanding your capacity to be a quality executive leader.

Are you who you say you are? 
In our experience as leadership coaches, we've seen leaders attempt to direct and control their organizations and teams via shows of strength. These leaders want to be seen by teams, customers and shareholders as strong and authoritative. To be seen this way, leaders try and act according to the "role" they find themselves in. I'm in charge, so I must present an air of always being in control!

However, this attitude can be toxic when facing down organizational problems. Rather than admit limitations in the current approach – or even admit trepidation and concern within yourself – leaders feel pressure to up the bluster and put up a steely front to quash possible dissent. Leaders who otherwise may have doubts about a certain protocol or agree that there is an issue in need of addressing may find themselves barking orders. I'm the boss, and what I say goes!

Are you the person you say you are?Are you the person you say you are? Or are you just pretending?

Being the leader you already are
This sort of leadership often does the opposite of what it intends. Beyond the danger of missing potentially useful ideas, this person you are projecting is inauthentic. You know it, and your team likely senses it. They see that you don't trust them with your true feelings – so they are unlikely to trust you with theirs. And without emotional honesty, intellectual performance falters.

When the leader you want to be eclipses the leader you already are, then you will find yourself in the weeds trying to manage your organization. This is why, as part of our executive coaching, we encourage leaders to see themselves and their emotional responses with clarity. By being true to your authentic self, you can more effectively motivate your team to look at the real operational issues everyone faces – turning breakdowns into breakthroughs.

For more tips on how to master yourself and maximize your leadership potential, please call 513-821-9580 or email me at michael@obriengroup.us.