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Can you really be yourself and succeed as a leader?

Jane Benston is a women’s leadership coach, corporate trainer and career mentor. She is a passionate advocate for high potential mid-career professional women, helping them to design their career, activate their authentic leadership style and accelerate their success. 

Leaders often confide in me saying they are not sure what style of leader they are meant to be. Some tell me that they are completely different at work to how they are at home. While others tell me they have to push themselves to operate in a way that doesn’t feel 100% authentic.

The sad thing is – it’s well documented that we struggle to do our best work when we aren’t being true to who we are.

And it’s hard to build deep trust with your team, colleagues and customers if you aren’t being authentically you. They may not be able to put their finger on it, but they will sense something is off, a mile away.

So…are you bringing the best, most genuine version of you to your leadership role or have you developed some hybrid style that’s part you and part what you think your organisation needs you to be?

I recently worked with a team of middle managers. They were dedicated and hard working … but something was just a little out of whack. They all spoke of rarely being in flow, they were struggling to keep the team engaged and the business performance was beginning to slide.

By the end of the day, many had come to the realisation that they had been operating outside their natural zone. They were not being themselves and had created a leadership style that didn’t showcase their unique character, abilities and strengths.

They are now on a path to leveraging the best of who they are in their approach to their leadership.

Authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership. — Harvard Business Review, January 2015

It sounds easy … but it does take work. Authentic leaders have generally done the inner work to discover who they are and what their strengths are. They know their guiding values and what matters most to them. And they have developed a sense of self-worth and use their emotional intelligence to modify their approach to bring out the best in others.


1. Build self-awareness: Obviously, we don’t want to bring any old version of you to your leadership … we want to bring the best version of you. And to do this you need to know who you are, what makes you tick, what lights you up, what motivates you, what pushes your buttons and what state you need to be in to do your best work.

You need to become consciously aware of your talents, strengths and unique character traits and how to bring these to your leadership to get the best from you and your team.

And to keep you on course you need to know what matters to you, what your values are and what leading with integrity means to you.

2. Trust you’re enough: Being you is enough. They hired you for the role because they wanted you … not some hybrid version of you! Yes, you need to keep growing, learning and doing the inner work (my friend – as a leader that never stops) but it’s now time to own who you are… and know you are worthy of the role you are in.

It’s time to step into your space and proudly own your quirks, your strengths, your foibles and what makes you different and unique. And when you do, you’ll build a trusted and loyal following because of who you are.

3. Showcase you key strengths: You do your best work when you work to your strengths. Deep down you know this. You know that work get’s easier, faster and more fun when you are working to your strengths. And importantly – delivering great results, well that just seems to flow.

So I wonder do you know what your strengths are?

If you know you are great at engaging and growing a high performing team to get results… back yourself to use these strengths to lift the sales results. If you know you are a master influencer who can build quality relationships to negotiate agreeable, sustainable and practical outcomes – go for it.

Put aside the temptation to follow the leadership model of someone else. Just because it works for them doesn’t mean it will work for you.

Trust that working to your strengths will give you the best chance to deliver the outcomes required.

4. Lead from your heart: Lead from your heart not just your head. Many corporate environments encourage logic over intuition…but it’s when we bring both, that we make the best decisions, engage best with our teams and settle into a comfortable rhythm as a leader.

It may require a little vulnerability at times and as a massive advocate of the work of Brene Brown – bringing a little vulnerability to your leadership can only be a good thing.

So now what …

I know at times, it seems like we are being encouraged to conform into some cookie cutter version of a successful leader but rest assured you will only create long-term leadership success when you are being you. I encourage you to be yourself and to bring all of you to your leadership. There is no better version of you … than the real version of you.

Read the original blog on Jane's website.


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