Discovering Life, Learning and Leadership

I was taught this axiom years ago and it has been a huge help to me as a person and in leadership.  Actually, I find it helpful to add a few extra words in brackets, as follows:

Be real (authentic) and true to yourself (be who you want to be)

Here are four reasons to follow this axiom:

  1. It’s freeing.  As a young child, my mother often admonished me to be myself.  She was somewhat of a non-conformist, a very authentic person and modelled this well.  At times, I think people expect us, especially those of us in leadership roles, to be someone we are not.  While I often found it hard not to let others influence me to try to be who they wanted me to be, over time I have discovered a freedom in just being myself.  Mom was right!
  2. Authenticity is valued.  Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly on further thought, even people who don’t align with you will generally appreciate it if you are real and authentic.  I would rather someone be real than have them pretend to be someone they are not.  Most people appreciate authenticity.
  3. People want to get to know the real you.  I have been told by many people that I am a hard person to get to know (I am working on improving in this area).  Often, this has been because I have not been as open as I could have been and/or has been because I haven’t taken the time to share with people (I am also working on this).  On other occasions though, it may have been because people were expecting me to be someone I am not.  I try not to change just to conform to someone’s expectations (unless, of course, they have identified an area for me to improve).  I believe that people would rather see the real you (or me) than to see a fake.
  4. It is proven leadership advice that works.  As a younger leader, I was blessed with many mentors.  One of them was Brian Canfield who helped me more than he will likely ever know.  I watched and learnt from Brian over the years as he progressed to the most senior leadership roles at BC TEL and TELUS including roles as President, CEO and Chairman.  Among other things, Brian is a lifelong learner and reader.  He has many great sayings and on various occasions Brian would tell me and others to “be true to yourself.”  I tried his advice and found it worked.  Leaders who are true to themselves are more effective.

While I am not 100% sure, I believe Brian adopted his advice from the Shakespearian quote:

To thine own self be true ….

Switchfoot, a musical group that I enjoy some (and my children enjoy even more), shared a song “This Is Your Life” which includes the following key line:

This is your life, are you who you want to be

As I listened to and reflected on this song, I became convinced that they are right.  We only get one life.  What a shame it would be to waste life trying to be someone else rather than being who you want to be.

Growing up, and still today, one of my favourite scriptures is Romans 12:2, which starts with the following admonition:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …

Considering all of the above, over the years I adopted this axiom and have found it to be helpful:

Be real (authentic) and true to yourself (be who you want to be)

It would be disingenuous for me to leave you with the idea that this axiom is easy.  This is not easy.  Sometimes there will be a price to pay.  However, in the long run it is worth it.  Looking back, any price I have paid to be true to myself was well worth it. Although it may be tempting to be a “People Pleaser” in the short run, being real and true to yourself pays dividends in the long run.

Do you value authenticity?  Are you true to yourself?  This is your life, are you who you want to be?

4 Comments to Be Real and True to Yourself (Axiom #2)

  1. Kashif Farooqui's Gravatar Kashif Farooqui
    Aug 15, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I would say this is a very fundamental charactersistic which is not very often taught. For me it has proven very succesful and respectful. However I totally agree with you that it doesn’t seem right for some situations in short run but the results attained are long term.

  2. Joy Booker's Gravatar Joy Booker
    Aug 16, 2011 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    This is my favorite post! I like this excerpt that stood out for me from #4; “Leaders who are true to themselves are more effective.” Thanks for the inspiring words!

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