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The Vowels of Coaching: A is for Authenticity

Authenticity is identified by many as key to effective leadership and workplace success. People are often told just ‘be authentic’. Simple?

Herminia Ibarra comments in her article ‘The Authenticity Paradox’, that being authentic can be interpreted as slipping, unthinkingly into a comfortable ‘being me’ place. However she is also clear that growth and transition are not comfortable. So how do you both be authentic and show up differently for a new role? Being authentic is not as simple as it seems.

Ibarra describes three common definitions of authenticity and the dilemmas associated with each.

  • Firstly when authentic is defined as being true to myself it begs the question ‘ … and which version of myself was that?’ Or further ‘ how can I be true to a future self that is not yet created? ‘ If I have never been a senior manager before, I have no version of ‘myself’ to refer to.

  • When authenticity is about a strict coherence between what you feel and what you do or say then when you don’t know what you don’t know, silence may seem your only option! This raises issues around how much you should disclose about yourself especially when you are afraid and the situation is calling for strong leadership.

  • Finally when authenticity is defined as making values-based choices the dilemma is how do or even do your past values relate to this new role or situation.

Resolving these dilemmas is challenging without support. Coaching can provide that support by creating a space in which to explore what ‘being authentic’ means for you in this new role or situation. In the coaching session answering questions such as:

  • What version of myself and which of my strengths are most needed in this new role?

  • How do I want to show up?

  • How can I feel afraid and still do what is required of me in the new role?

  • Which of my values are most important in this new situation?

Considering and resolving these dilemmas are especially relevant for

  • Women whose confidence wanes when they imagine that they are not totally prepared for the new opportunity and feel they need to be perfect from day one!

  • those of us who are ‘quiet leaders’ where our approach and leadership style is not the traditional ‘out there’, extraverted style commonly portrayed and therefore your approach may not been immediately defined as ‘taking the lead’

In coaching you get to consider and decide what and how your evolving and courageous self wants to be, how and where you will stretch yourself and how you will be brave.

Growing as a leader or into a new role requires courage and compassion – for yourself – finding the place to stand that is authentic for you.

If this is something you would like to explore, contact Ann


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