Advanced Authenticity

Taking Leadership to the Next Level

By Ron Price

We talk a lot about authenticity in leadership. In fact, we dedicate an entire section to it in The Complete Leader. This is because the most empowering leadership competency is being authentically who you are. Once you discover and embrace your authentic self, you’ll see that the world opens up and in fact there are many levels of authenticity. I’d like to address two stages of advanced authenticity for leaders.

Find Your Zone
One of the tiers of being authentic in your leadership is having a clear picture of what you do exceptionally well. It’s what athletes refer to as being “in the zone.” When you’re in the zone, the activity that you are doing becomes a natural extension of you.

One of the things I admire about anyone who has excelled at their craft is that when they reach a certain point of mastery, they make the activity look easy to the rest of us. An example is Yo-Yo Ma: When you watch him play the cello, he is enjoying himself so much that he makes it look effortless. Yet his talent grew out of years and years of practice and passion, so that he can be in the zone when he plays. This is not a zone of passivity; it’s a zone of free-flowing creativity that comes from of a lifetime of discipline.

Part of advanced authenticity is discovering what your zone is and then learning to expand it. You may feel in the zone when you’re organizing a project, when you’re helping coworkers deal with a conflict, or when you’re practicing futuristic thinking by considering innovative ideas for your organization.

I feel it when I’m facilitating a conversation with a leadership team. There’s a certain energy that begins to emerge when I work with a group of leaders. I find myself in the zone, in a place of authenticity, and suddenly the actions and ideas begin to flow. I am able to adapt to the needs of the group, and the actions I take are not preconceived; they are derived out of a career of learning and experience. When this flow happens, I recognize that I’ve moved into my comfort zone.

Another way to describe the zone is when something becomes second nature. It’s where work feels effortless and your talent shines through. In that moment you have a relaxed focus and an awareness of being fully in the moment.

Every leader needs to discover their comfort zone, and then learn how to expand that zone and grow it further. 

We Are Great
Another measure of advanced authenticity is a form of synergistic connection. It’s when you recognize that even though you may be accomplished, there is something even greater in learning how to connect with other accomplished people. I have a great appetite for this aspect of authenticity at this stage in my career.

It’s essentially learning the authenticity of a group of peers. Dave Logan, John King and Halee Fischer-Wright talk about this phenomenon in their book, Tribal Leadership. It’s the concept of moving from “I’m great” to “We’re great.”

Their research points out that people can achieve high levels of success by saying, “I’m great,” but it’s still a competitive statement, and what’s really under the surface is that “I’m great and you’re not.” 

There is a small percentage of people who have had an epiphany: They realize that even with all the success they’ve achieved, there is something greater by an exponential power—that is to be able to connect with others who have also achieved a high level of success. There is extreme value in looking for the synergies of greatness in multiple relationships instead of just looking in the mirror.

It’s a very rare occurrence when people can move from “I’m great” to “We’re great” authentically. It’s a result of discovering your authenticity and then moving to a higher level. It is discovering the power and the creativity of truly deep and collaborative relationships.

The best way to start creating synergies of greatness is to start looking for opportunities to introduce people you admire to one another. Instead of simply self-promoting, look for opportunities to connect authentic people to one another. Find joy in building connections and creating “triads”. Don’t just introduce them over email; invite them out to coffee or lunch together with you. This way you can experience and facilitate the relationship that your introduction creates. 

The more you work within both of these levels of advanced authenticity, the more you’re moving yourself forward a whole new level of existence.