Having worked in corporate environments over the last 23 years, I have been privileged to meet and work with some incredible people. People who came from various different backgrounds, who had to overcome numerous challenges, to achieve in their career. And each and every one of them taught me lessons that I have attempted to implement in my own career and life, as well as pay forward as many times as possible, in order to help others in their development.
The interesting thing is that, along with the great people I have worked with, I have also worked with and for some not so nice people, and equally, these people have taught me valuable lessons that have helped shape my own leadership philosophy and who I am today. And I thank them for this. Over time, we gather experiences and these experiences can lead to wisdom, which can then be passed on to others, to hopefully allow others to utilise your long path to become a shorter route for them.
In looking back over the last 23 years, there is one thing that stands out which I believe separated the great people from the not so great, and this is Authenticity. Now, in the corporate world, the word authenticity is sometimes looked on as a derogatory term, especially where people are expected to ‘conform’ to a team culture and ethos, so as to fit in. However, what I have found is that over time, the leaders who are genuinely authentic, have enjoyed long term success, they have strong and long standing relationships, they are highly respected, and are genuinely happy with who they are. They didn’t become a byproduct of their corporate environment, which all too often turns people into clones where they speak the same, use the same ‘corporatisms’ and acronyms, and in some cases, start looking the same. They resisted this, and through it, maintained an identity, which over the years, remained consistent and attractive.
Now that I have exited ‘corporate life’ myself, it excites me to be able to go into various different corporate environments and work with both sales teams and sales leaders to develop their unique differentiators, their unique selling proposition, and their unique leadership philosophy. And I have noticed, now, more than ever, that authenticity is a genuine differentiator, that is like a massive magnet, attracting high quality people and customers. Here are some elements of authenticity that I found really stands out :
- You are an original – the great Les Brown often says ‘everyone is born an original, and most people die as a copy’, which is really sad. Each and every person is unique in their own way, and are original. This is an advantage that many people choose to either ignore or gloss over. Within your originality will be some unique talents and abilities which can be used to propel you forward and to certainly propel your team forward. Embrace the fact that you are an original. Who are you?
- You are not a carbon copy – In line with your uniqueness, please do not attempt to be anybody who you are not. The corporate world is filled with carbon copies, corporate clones as I refer to them, who believe that in order to be successful, there is a specific version of themselves they must morph into, and mostly this is a ‘cookie cutter’ of someone who appears to be ‘successful’ or ‘influential’. The fact is is that there is not a 100% proven success formula for successful leadership based on personality or behavioural style, which means that their is massive scope for you to be successful because of who you are!! If you are an introverted type of person, you can still be as influential and as successful as a person who is completely extroverted – it simply means you will go about it in a different way. Please don’t be a cookie cutter. Ask yourself the question, Who are you?
- Know what you stand for – what core principles do you live by? What is important to you? These are your values, your true north, which will guide you every single day. When you are 100% crystal clear on these, your daily behaviour, actions and language will allow you to move forward with confidence. Will you still be judged by others? Of course. As you know, as a leader, people are watching your every move, and listening to every word you say. They are also watching what you are not doing and listening to what you are not saying. And they are judging you against your values and if there is a match between your behaviour and values, all good. If not, you know the outcome. So be crystal clear on what you stand for and who you are.
- Your story is unique – everyone has a story, but not everyone uses that story to propel them forward. Many use the story to hold them back and use as an excuse to not perform, or to justify their lack of results. What I have discovered is that leaders who are authentic, utilise their story as rocket fuel to propel them forward. They do not hide from it, and they certainly do not use it as an excuse. They know and understand that many will judge them based on their story, however, because they know what they stand for, their approach is as simple as ‘it is what it is’ & ‘what you see is what you get’. They do not pretend to be anything that they are not. And this approach can be extremely resonating to others. Who are you?
- You are consistent – one of the biggest attributes of authentic leaders is their consistency. No matter what is happening within their environment, their response and approach is always consistent. This in itself is a very endearing quality, as the team no longer has to wonder what version of the leader is turning up each day. This consistency can bring the team closer together quicker than anything else.
So as you consider your leadership philosophy, build it on authenticity. Know who you are. Use your uniqueness and build a clear message around it. People want you and not a version of you. Do this, and watch your influence explode!
To your continued leadership success.
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Darren specialises in working with Sales Leaders to create, implement & embed a sales leadership game plan that will deliver outstanding and sustainable sales & revenue results. He is also the founder of the Australian Sales Leadership Network, a LinkedIn Group for sales leaders to share insights, strategies, resources and best practices, in order to build high quality, engaged and successful sales teams, delivering profitable and sustainable sales results. To apply to join, please click this link.