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There is currently a massive self help industry thriving on our intense need to know how to lead. Authentic, ethical, transactional, charismatic, transformational, democratic, distributed – which one are you or do you aspire to be?

There is also an equally huge ‘self help’ industry driven by the pursuit of happiness and self contentment. Not surprisingly, they have much in common. Essentially, at the crux of both is the driving need to be real, genuine, to know ourselves thus leading us to authentic happiness.

George Sims, writing for  the Harvard Review, tells us how to discover our authentic leadership, our authentic selves. However, the truth is that we can’t all be leaders; we are not all born to be leaders and even as leaders sometimes we will have to follow.

However, there is one person we can lead and that is ourselves. And if we can be authentic in our relationship with ourselves, we are closer to finding contentment in our work and home lives and closer to becoming the leader we want to be.

Sims tells us this about authentic  leadership

  • People trust you when you are genuine and authentic
  • Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practise consistently and lead with their hearts, as well as their heads
  • They establish long term, meaningful relationships
  • They practise self discipline
  • They are challenged to understand themselves well enough to discover where they can use their leadership gifts to serve others.
  • Authentic leaders use difficult experiences to give meaning to their lives and
  • Reframe events to rise above their challenges

Authentic leadership goes hand in hand then with emotional intelligence for to practice the core skills of authentic leadership, we need to know how to manage our own emotions.

Daniel Goleman, an expert on emotional intelligence shares this about knowing ourselves to lead. He says

  • Emotional Intelligence distinguishes great leaders from merely good ones. These leaders are
  • Self aware, meaning that they can look objectively are their own behaviour and adjust to suit situations and relationships. That way they can self regulate and take control of their emotions. They are motivated to grow and change and can empathise with others. Because of the efforts they make to be self aware, people who practise emotional intelligence have good social skills which include but are not limited to
  • Self awareness
  • Self confidence
  • A sense of humour
  • Willingness to accept constructive criticism

We know that we are practising emotional intelligence when we

  • Reflect and think about our actions
  • We are comfortable with change
  • Act with Integrity
  • We are motivated and we have passion for whatever we participate in whether old or new challenges. We seek to improve and importantly we are optimistic in the face of failure.

Goleman says this;

“It isn’t emotional intelligence that we need to survive this world, it is emotional resilience that we need to thrive.”

In my work today, I try to focus on both being  authentic  and practising emotional intelligence – the first because I believe that as an authentic person,  I am  better able to support the  people  I interact with, and the second because I am naturally sensitive, quite shy and introverted. Having  faith that I am on a path – a faith path to develop as a person – gives me a sense of purpose. I am continuing to  find, develop, then use my talents and skills, and mould them to my purpose. Similarly, in student, wellness and executive coaching, I focus on encouraging clients to get to know themselves well – to be authentic.

How do we build that relationship with ourselves? Where do we start?Building friendship, networks and community is natural and we need this to survive.These days, this ties in with society’s need – I’m almost tempted to say addiction – to be and stay connected to not just our friends but also to anyone who is prepared to ‘like’ us.

I need not ask how many of you have a FB account. I remember when my eldest son wanted to sign up and as part of the deal, I signed up with him and became his ‘friend’. I doubt that anyone ten years ago would have realised how much this ‘tool’ of communication would come to rule our lives and cause so much grief, aggravation, often laughter, and act as a perpetual distraction from the real authentic world around us. Sally (not her real name) , a student,  tells me that she can’t go half an hour while she is studying without checking her phone. My 20 year old son has FB open while he is completing an assignment and his phone is ‘tinking’ beside him. Sally tells me she just wants to stay connected to what is going on. She seems to need these virtual relationships. She seems to have an addiction to be ‘liked’. She has a serious case of FOMO

BUT

How well you do and how happy you are will not depend on what others are doing  with their  lives  nor how many people like you, not what you want to be in the future but what you are  doing now, what sort of person you are and what kind of life you want to live. It will not depend on what we know about others but what you know about yourself. It will not depend on how many people like us but how much we like ourselves and know ourselves.

I am sure you have all been told at some stage in your lives to be yourself as though by being yourself all would work out okay. And there is no doubt that if we can ‘be’ ourselves, we are more relaxed, more confident but for many of us, it can be a struggle to find that self. We take on different personas to match what we think people need or want to see. We post photos and selfies to portray ourselves to others. However, our authentic self is who we are ALL the time – the person who is deep within us who responds to events and people in a consistent way.

So how do we learn to like ourselves? How does that happen you say? Give me the answers. Well there are no easy answers and we are all individuals but maybe this might help.

  • We build a relationship with ourselves, we are kind to ourselves, we support and trust ourselves and we are loyal to ourselves
  • What do you think would happen if we stayed loyal to ourselves ALL DAY? That even when we felt rejected by others, we chose to stand by ourselves, our own values, our own beliefs, to be our own loyal friends? Perhaps that’s one of our greatest challenges – to be our own allies rather than looking for acceptance from others.
  • Perhaps acceptance is hard for you, particularly when you don’t feel comfortable with your choices, or you’re disappointed in the results you have achieved. This then is the time for you to be there for you – hold out your hand and stand by yourself. Be your own true loyal friend. This is the most important relationship you will have in your life. It will take time and patience to build this relationship. We can’t get to know some-one well unless we spend time with them. A true friend is one who listens and empathizes, some-one we have shared truths with. How often have you spent time with yourself? Have you sat and listened, consoled, confided in, comforted yourself? Listen to the small quiet voice inside yourself – your authentic self – and take time to nurture that relationship. Click the ‘like’ button when you feel good about something you have done. Stephanie Dowrick, an author and psychologist who began writing long before the advent of social media said this.

“The crucial thing seems to be to find a way to live right in the heart of your own life – not on the sidelines and not as a stranger.”

So bear with me while I ask you a few questions to test how well you know yourselves. These are simple questions, simple answers required.

One answer is good, two is better. If you can respond with three that’s excellent.

What are your

Favourite colours?

Favourite foods?

Favourite movies?

Books?

Time of the year?

Type of music?

Exercise?

Sport?

Holiday destination?

They’re the easy ones.

But what about the more difficult ones?

Beliefs?

Values?

Types of friendship?

To find the answers, you may need to delve deeper.

Challenge yourself to spend time alone without your phone, Ipad and away from your computer. Go for a walk, meditate, pray. Leave space for your intuition to develop and your creativity to explode. Celebrate your successes, learn from your failures, and be proud that you have tried.

Then extend yourself into the community around you with a confidence that you believe in yourself. Build a strong friendship group of like minded people. Sure, stay connected through social media but do so with confidence that you care about and know yourself and know your values. Express that sense of connection and belonging and cultivate it through the love you give yourself and then others. Make a choice to value yourself – to believe that you have been created as a perfectly beautiful human being. This is how you will build personal faith and spirituality as you engage with, participate and lead in a world that is ever changing.

My advice to myself. (I found this in a journal recently.)

To Thérèse Eddy

  • Don’t be afraid
  • Embrace change
  • Build strong relationships
  • Lean back and let others in
  • Observe, learn, act
  • Let go of grievances. Realise you can’t always win
  • Not everyone is going to like what you stand for, just as long as you do
  • Not everyone is going to like you. That’s just a fact of life. Get over it and hang around with likeminded people
  • Be intuitive when choosing your path. If your gut doesn’t like it, it’s probably not right for you. Always choose heart over head but use your head once you’ve made the decision. Our bodies are finely tuned to sense danger. Listen to it.
  • Get to know yourself. Spend time alone. Be still. Listen. Lean back or step out when things get too much for you.
  • Listen to others, empathise
  • Be honest with yourself and others
  • Don’t be afraid to show your intelligence
  • Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd
  • Give but know when to stop giving.  There are people out there who will keep taking whatever you are giving and never give back even when they are in a position to do this. Expecting reward is not selfish, it’s human need. Praise is essential component of the growth cycle.
  • Learn to accept change. Nothing ever stays the same. It is inevitable. Love it, embrace it, run with it, and use it to create a new world for yourself.
  • Find out what you’re good at and build from there
  • Develop your inner belief in what’s right and establish strong core values as your anchor point.

Embrace the challenges that face you, and build on the relationship you have with yourself, to build better relationships for your future; a future where you might be given and take the opportunity to lead  authentically with emotional intelligence.

 George, B., Sims, P., McLean, A. N., & Mayer, D. (2011). Discovering your authentic leadership. In HBR’S 10 must reads. USA: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.