Authenticity: Leadership Series Part Six of Seven

Screen shot 2011 04 11 at 3 54 51 PMDo you act the same way regardless of who is around? Or are you a different person to different people? As a teacher and coach I have observed that student athletes often act differently depending on who is watching them.

If you assembled all of the people you know, together in one room, would they describe the same person? Authenticity isn’t about being perfect, but it has everything to do with trust, integrity, and loyalty. Living an authentic life is paramount to maintaing your credibility as a leader and leaving a lasting impact on others. We trust and admire those who live authentic lives. Leaders are people who live by set of core values.

Authenticity is about who you say you are, who people say you are, and who you really are. Tell me what you value and I’ll tell you what kind of person you will become.

Authenticity is the glue that holds leadership together. Without it a leader falls apart. Nothing will weaken your impact more, or destroy your accomplishments faster than a breach of trust or a lapse in your integrity.

To be a leader you must have integrity, and you must be trustworthy. These are the elements that make up your authenticity, and authenticity is the glue that holds the leader together.

A friend of mine graduated from the Naval Academy, where authenticity is ingrained into each and every graduate. We went out to eat with some friends once and he was given the incorrect change. He was calculating the error as we were leaving the restaurant. He told us he had to go back in and fix the error. A buddy of ours pointed out that the error was in his favor. He was given too much money back! He replied, “I know! I have to get back in there.” The overpayment was for thirty cents, but he explained that someone at some point was going to have to account for that thirty cents and that doing the right thing, every time, is priceless.

A man with integrity doesn’t do the right once in awhile, not most of the time, and not just when others see it. The authentic leader does the right thing every single time. Sure, he will make mistakes, but once he knows he has, he will immediately move to correct it.

During my college football practices the team had to run warm-up laps around the field. While running those laps a few of the guys would round off the corners of the field. They didn’t go all the way around the corner, and shaved off a few feet and some time and energy. They didn’t stay outside the white line like we were told. It was easier to round the corner off.

Well, our line coach would yell. “Hey! You cheat on these laps and you’ll cheat on your wife! You cheat on these laps and you’ll cheat your whole life.” It had a nice rhyme and by midway through camp we’d all repeat it once he started and no one ever rounded a corner again.

I still remember that lesson today. There is a lot of truth to it. To cheat in life you have to start somewhere. I’m pretty certain that the guy with a machine gun robbing a bank probably started smaller, and this isn’t his first time. Did he take a nickel off his brother’s dresser? Did he steal a paperclip from a teacher’s desk? Graduate to taking classmates’ lunch money? It had to start somewhere.
You aren’t born with integrity. Sure we’re innocent enough when we are little. Integrity, trustworthiness, loyalty, these qualities are things you build upon your entire life. They’re like bank accounts. Every time you keep your word, and do the right thing you make a deposit. When you lie and cheat, well you potentially go bankrupt. Work at being authentic.
Authenticity is about not placing anything above your integrity, your word, or doing what is right.

Take Responsibility for your actions. If someone compliments you for your work or gives you praise, accept it, but quickly pass the praise along to those you lead. However, when you make a mistake or things just don’t go the way you thought, be just as quick to accept the hardship.

We expect our athletes to take responsibility on the field. Nothing upsets me more or disappoints me more when an athlete blames someone else for a mistake. Nothing makes me more proud when a person immediately owns up to their mistakes.
Lets face it, mistakes are going to happen. If you’re not making mistakes you aren’t doing enough. Take responsibility.

To lead for any duration a leader must possess authenticity. To be truly authentic we must practice it at every moment of every day.

Kelly is an inspirational speaker, author, and artist.

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Kelly Croy is a chalk artist and professional speaker. He has entertained and amazed audiences across the nation including corporations, schools, churches, conferences, and anywhere people come together to be entertained and inspired. Please consider booking Kelly for your next event.