In a recent conversation with one of my mentors the talk turned, as it often does, to the notion of balance. She wisely suggested that I think about balance differently than the familiar work/life quest. She said “Think about balance as balancing the fact that you have been called to lead and that you need to do so by being authentic to yourself.” I loved this advice. Being true to who I am lets me sleep peacefully at night.
Despite years of studies, the Harvard Business Review claims there is no clear profile of the ideal leader. How gratifying if you think about this in terms of diversity and inclusion. When I recommend articles and books about leadership to my team or someone I’m coaching, I’m quick to remind them to be themselves and leverage their unique gifts. I believe people trust you if you are genuine—not a replica of someone else.
To be authentic, we must be willing to devote ourselves to personal understanding and growth. I recommend taking time to be reflective, seeking frequent feedback from sources throughout the organization and being willing to step out of your comfort zone. As you do so, here are some questions to consider:
What motivates me extrinsically? Intrinsically?
Which people and experiences in my early life/career had the greatest impact on me?
Are there blind spots or gaps that I should be aware of? If so, whom can I rely on to tell me that they exist?
The better you understand yourself, the better prepared you will be to support others in their leadership journeys. But it requires commitment and time—especially time to listen. As I do more listening, I seek to understand people’s mindsets and help them shift their thinking for greater results. I know being honest is crucial. Having the courage to address difficult situations openly but with sensitivity will create a sense of trust and confidence between you and the people around you.
Finally, one of my professors once reminded me not to worry so much about providing a lofty vision, but to focus instead on “offering yourself and your spirit to those you lead.” Perhaps that’s why I love working at Hallmark so much. Our brand mission is about enriching the lives of others. If I can do that for the people I work with and the consumers we serve, then perhaps I’ll be able to say someday “job well done.”