In an attempt to capitalize on a gorgeous end-of-summer day, I spent a recent afternoon on a Lake Michigan beach. Taking a break from my computer work, closing my eyes to breathe in the gorgeous sunshine and the (salt-free!) water, I felt something hit my leg…almost like a crumpled piece of paper. I looked up and there was a butterfly! Sitting on my leg!! I was stunned (seriously, when was the last time a butterfly came and sat on your leg??!). I inched my way up to grab my phone/camera a foot away, and took a few pics, amazed that it was still on my leg – this phenomena lasted for a full 5 minutes! After the shock of “there’s a butterfly on my leg!!!!” I noticed it had a torn wing, almost half the size of the “good wing”. Maybe that was the reason it was hanging around…maybe it couldn’t fly? But alas, with a bit less grace than a typical (perfect) butterfly, it flew away and was beautifully (authentically) still a butterfly…providing me with more joy than any other butterfly had.
Many leadership clients resist flying until they are “perfect”…not wanting to show their imperfections, not wanting to risk exposing their metaphorical torn wing. Not wanting to be vulnerable. Leadership requires courage and risk. Leadership gives leaders a great opportunity, and responsibility, to touch others with their greatness (and instilling joy!). That greatness requires a little vulnerability, courage, and risk. Ask best-selling author Brene Brown, who put “vulnerability” in her Leadership Manifesto! And, as stated by Anderson/Adams in Mastering Leadership, “There is no safe way to be great…Transformation requires courage…Authenticity is highly correlated to Leadership Effectiveness (.80), to Purposeful Visionary (.82), to Teamwork (.68) and to Business Performance (.50).” Yes, the research supports a business case for cultivating and leveraging authenticity. In The Truth About Leadership, Kouzes & Posner rank authenticity attributes like belief in self; credibility, values; trust; commitment; grittiness; and passion (they call it love – seeing the greatness in others) in their Top Ten.
What gets in the way is our ego. Measuring ourselves against a perceived yardstick. Fear. Fear of being “less than”. I’ll clue you in on something…the number of leaders who are afraid they’ll be “found out” is staggering. Your people aren’t expecting perfection. They are craving (and expecting) authenticity. They are craving your inner torn-winged butterfly, who is still fully, authentically a butterfly.