Amidst the seasonal hubbub, a dear friend invited me to a holiday concert featuring soprano soloist and new acquaintance Diane Penning, as well as a local choir group. Wanting to experience Diane’s music, I surrendered to the commitment – it was certainly a “plop” in the middle of my last-weekend-before-Christmas-to-get-things-done stress – and said “yes”. The venue, St. Andrew’s Cathedral, was beautiful. We settled into our fourth row seats for an hour of Christmas music (after all…how many school concerts had I endured? I could do one more…). As the choir began, I was surprised and moved by how incredibly beautiful they sounded (jaded by too many school concerts??). And, they were interesting to watch! One woman in particular stood out to me, singing v-e-r-y enthusiastically – swaying, gyrating, head bobbing to the beat. I chuckled at how out-of-place and silly she looked. My gaze left her and surveyed the rest of the choir. But there was something that drew me back to her. I was fascinated. And then the oddest thing happened. A tear slide down my face. And then another. And another. Had the music broken through my holiday-stress armor? …what else could it be? No, It was something about that woman. I suddenly saw her beauty! Oh my gosh, it is her unbridled, unabashed, unapologetic sense of who she was! She was joyfully, confidently, proudly, sharing her joy. She had the courage to be authentically herself!
Countless leadership annals point to the link between courage and authenticity. The Grossman Group refers to it as quiet courage versus Rambo Courage – “a courage that comes from deep inside”. Forbes contributor Tardanico sites how “courageous leaders” are in short supply, and how necessary they are in modern-time work-place stress. John Terry’s book title alone points to the correlation, Authentic Leadership – Courage in Action. Harvard Business Review’s author, Bill George, in his article Discovering Your Authentic Leadership, gives us good news…anyone can learn to be an authentic leader. “Authentic leaders…work hard at developing self-awareness through persistent and often courageous self-exploration.”
In the same HBR article the author makes a case that authentic leadership is the reason behind sustained long-term results(!). Even if short-term gains are achieved, minus authenticity, sustained long-term success is not possible. So my question to you is: Do you have the courage to be you?! Do you have the courage to lead authentically from that quiet place within…leading confidently, joyfully, proudly, and maybe even sharing your joy. I am grateful to the out-of-place, silly looking, beautiful woman who had the courage to be her authentic self…inspiring me to do the same. To be me.