Traditionally, we think of great leaders as people who can exercise their influence through top-down, heavy-handed tactics. Authentic? Not.
“The ability to dominate or influence people,” according to the Cambridge dictionary. Traditionally, we think of some young CEOs as people who can exercise their authentic influence through top-down, heavy-handed tactics. In practice, though, wielding power is rarely straightforward.
In reality, research has shown that leaders who make the best use of their influence rarely utilize direct coercion.
When their leaders used hard power, for example, followers showed more significant levels of “sub-optimal motivation,” according to a 2018 study published in the Frontiers in a Psychology journal. On the other hand, followers were more driven and tended to identify more quickly when they believed their superiors were exercising soft power.
Although we all have inner strength, many top executives and CEOs inadvertently lead from a place of fear. Fears are a complicated web of false ideas, old wounds, and the ego itself. Years of environmental conditioning have frequently resulted in the genuine self-being buried beneath deep-seated fear.
Leading from the fear becomes an unconscious coping technique that prevents access to a real inner power. As a result, a CEO may feel pressure to use compliant, protective, or dominating power tactics.
The next thing…
Take, for example, Michael. A CEO who is afraid of not being liked would fold himself in half to satisfy others, avoid unpleasant confrontations, and find ways to keep low-performing employees on his team.
Michael saw how this blind spot was sabotaging him as a person and his baseline outcomes when he realized how much personal energy he was spending doing this. The toll it was taking on his team, and, eventually, how much it would cost his organization.
Do this instead for authentic leadership.
Barbara is another example of a CEO whose blind spot prevented her from accessing her inner potential.
She was having difficulty closing off her thoughts and getting enough sleep. We identified an underlying dread of being wrong. Barbara was terrified of making bad choices, and it was this fear that kept her awake at night.
Of course, a CEO’s decisions are significant and have far-reaching consequences. Barbara was delaying crucial decisions and maintaining emotional distance due to her fear, which was neither enhancing her leadership nor benefiting her organization.
Authentic leaders aren’t afraid to try new things.
When a CEO leads from an unconscious fearful place, they understand the irony of intent. We get what we unconsciously attempt to avoid.
In comparison, Michael fears that people dislike him and is worried about losing relationships. Barbara was concerned about making the incorrect option and failing. These adaptive actions are unauthentic, uncreative, and uninspired, and they come at the cost of respect.
After Michael and Barbara reconnected to their real inner strength and tapped into their resourcefulness, things improved. They could speak, make decisions, set boundaries, and have difficult talks, gradually regaining their respect.
On the other hand, CEOs are human, and fear is a human feeling. While no CEO wants to hear, think, or feel the term “fear,” it’s crucial to remember the following.
If you conceal or pretend to be fearless to avoid feeling fear, you are giving away your power and undermining your leadership. You’re losing touch with your genuine, creative self, the distinction between these two sorts of power is “being in power” and “being in your power,” two completely different leadership approaches.
Consider Professor Brené Brown’s difference between “armored leadership” and “daring leadership.” Brown describes these as the need to be right against the need to get it right.
The place within us that houses our riches and resources is inner strength. Your authentic self can instill confidence, trust, courage, and compassion in others.
That means for leaders…
To harness inner force, it’s crucial to start with basic skills like observation and focus.
Observing allows you to become conscious, allowing you to select which part of yourself to lead. It’s critical to practice being present while maintaining a “connected distance” to engage comment. This characteristic enables you to witness the fear or feeling rather than becoming the dread.
You’ll have access to three crucial resources once these skills become more natural and you learn to shift back to your inner power: creativity, trust, and knowledge.
You won’t be able to use these resources in any meaningful way. We can’t “do” intelligence or creativity any more than we can “do” trust. They are, nonetheless, resources that every CEO should aspire to have. This is what authentic leaders do.
Imagine recognizing fear and then returning to your inner power, where you may reconnect with profound trust, insight, and creativity. From this vantage point, how different might leadership decisions and behaviors be?
As a leader, link yourself to the inner power that generates an environment of security, openness, and trust driven by inspiration, powered by motivation, and united by involvement. This idea is from the book How to Develop the Authentic Leader in You. Being authentic, speaking the truth, and seeing things without judgment is necessary for accessing inner power.
When a CEO’s link to authenticity is activated, they gain strength, and when that power is activated, a CEO can begin to trust their process. It takes a lot of profound self-reflection and discipline to harness this inner strength, but the results are worth it.
Everyone around a CEO who connects with their inner strength re-calibrates. Others will want to be a part of your purpose as well.
Instead of forcing others to drive, they lead with clarity, focus on the vision, and use their resources to become a driving force. Communication becomes more straightforward, and limits become more defined. Witnessing this profound transformation, this newfound sense of power, is highly inspiring.