Pillar 1: The Courage to Be Authentically You


Our world, right now, needs leaders who know how to inspire, engage and get extraordinary results. As a leader, you’ve got opportunities, pressures, questions and complexities coming at you from all directions. You have team members who want meaningful work to do. You have stakeholders who need you to consistently create value. You work in dynamic marketplaces with competitive pressure. You have peers with whom you share the company’s resources. How do you effectively lead in these circumstances with courage?

In my 2-plus decades of experience developing leaders at all levels, I’ve seen that leaders who thrive in these circumstances consistently demonstrate courage in 4 distinct ways, which are captured in The Courage of a Leader 4 Pillars®:

  1. They uncover and share their authentic selves.
  2. They say what needs to be said.
  3. They trust the legacy (their leadership legacy).
  4. They are bold and create the extraordinary. 

In this blog, I will share more about Pillar 1: The Courage to Be Authentically You.

Pillar 1: The Courage to Be Authentically You

You are a courageous and powerful leader when you do leadership YOUR way. When you lean into your unique strengths, passions, and approach to leadership – and stop trying to emulate what is not naturally you – your unique value is more easily recognized. Your brand will become clear to those around you. You’ll also have more energy as you spend your time engaged in what you’re good at and what you care most about. More energy means more creativity, more resilience, and ultimately more results!

With your unique value and approach to leadership clearly in mind, you want to declare your leadership legacy. I think of a leadership legacy as an aspiration about how you want to be known or about what you want to create. A leadership legacy is something that you can start living into right away. It can be an initiative, set of products, or improved processes you leave behind. It can also be a leadership trait for which you want to be known and foster in the organization. 

Examples of leadership legacies include a fully optimized enterprise-wide software system, an innovative culture, and the creation of teams that operate with trust and transparency. With any of these there is work to be done in the moment like defining what fully optimized means, rewarding innovative behaviors, and creating a shared dashboard. There is also a legacy of work, skills, and thought processes that will be left behind such as real-time data accessible anywhere in the organization, processes that encourage innovation, and employees who know how to be authentically trusting with others. 

There is great value in defining a leadership legacy. A legacy will help you set priorities, provide you with guidance, and keep you tuned into what will serve the greater good. Your legacy comes from your authentic self, is in line with who you are, and can have you at times act bigger than your ego or any other human consideration. 

Let me give you an example.

I worked with a leader, Maria, who felt pressure to speed up system implementation timelines and give in to a certain outspoken and passionate senior leader. Yet, when I encouraged Maria to ask herself what her legacy of a fully optimized enterprise-wide system would want, she had to respond with “more dialogue and benchmarking.” She knew the functional leaders needed more information about the capabilities and options for the system from companies who had been through the process they were embarking upon.

Maria stayed committed to her aspiration, put her personal discomfort aside, and made the career risky move to push back against a senior leader. And, it got shaky for a while. Some, who had previously been on board, questioned her decision to go up against a high-powered leader. It was the first in a string of decisions where Maria had to look to her legacy – and not her self-protective instincts – for guidance. It wasn’t an easy time, yet she stuck with her consistent messaging, kept working the process and her aspirations and big picture commitment prevailed. The system was implemented and fully optimized by year two, which represents a very impressive timeline for systems of this nature. Several functional leaders told Maria they were glad they took the time upfront to learn about and workout key design decisions and implementation points. And, most importantly, the cross-functional leaders in this organization were connected, aligned, and operating more cohesively than ever before allowing for faster and better solutions for customers.

You can start living and leaving behind your legacy, right now, today. Doesn’t matter if you’re an emerging leader or have a small team. You have a sphere of influence and can begin to leverage it right away. Define your leadership legacy. Then, start living it by leveraging your strengths and playing where you know you provide value. Expand from there. 

Too many – at all levels – are unknowingly playing the waiting game, waiting to have something. There’s no need to wait until you have your next promotion, have the roadmap totally figured out, have the support of all your peers, have consensus at the next bi-annual Board of Directors meeting, have these pressing projects completed first… have everything you think you need. You can be the leader actively committed to your legacy today. 

What courageous action will you take today?

How can you do leadership YOUR way? What’s your leadership legacy?

How can you start living into it right away?

More support to demonstrate The Courage to Be Authentically You: