It has been two weeks since I attended Sea Salt Learning’s Social Age Safari and I am still processing the whole experience. It was, without exception, the most thought provoking conference I have ever been on, and I think the reason for that was that it was not the usual passive, take it or leave it experience.
Now don’t get me wrong, whenever I attend a conference I always set myself some objectives, usually around who I want to meet, what I want to find out, and how I can stretch myself in some way, but I have come to realise that in a way that has the potential to stifle how much I could actually gain. A bit annoying really when I thought I was being so clever in making sure I actually achieved something.
The reason it has the potential to stifle is because it actually can limit what you can achieve. By setting parameters around what I want to get of it, I limit myself to achieving those outcomes. Limiting was not in the Social Age Safari vocabulary; expanding your mind, stretching your networks and connections, and challenging your thinking were more the order of the day.
One key concept that kept coming up again and again, was that in order to excel in the Social Age we really do need Authentic Leadership. That is one of the things that I am still thinking about. In one way that is pretty obvious, when wouldn’t you need Authentic Leadership? But, for so many of us to be saying that it is still needed, made me realise how rare Authentic Leadership really is.
At the same time, I don’t think leaders set out to be inauthentic, so why might it still be a rarity? I think the simple answer is because they are human. Being authentic is not really a skill you can learn, being authentic is about understanding yourself warts and all, and being comfortable with that, and comfortable with others, warts and all, too.
You might be able to learn the skills about how to project your authentic self but just learning those skills won’t be enough if you have not really understood yourself first. At the Safari, we all agreed that in order to authentic you need to be in touch with your values; however, in my experience people do not always know what that really means. I was exactly the same. When I first started thinking about my own values I had sailed through life and work to the grand old age of about 30 without consciously thinking about what my values were, how they impacted my behaviour, or more importantly how they made me happy or sad.
So maybe one of the keys to being authentic is to really understand your own values and accepting the values of others.
My personal experience is that when I had really identified my core values I was more conscious of the times when my values were and were not being met. For example – if you are the sort of person who works to live, you will probably give your all in work, but as soon as you are out of the door you will feel lighter, freer and really more alive. If you live to work, the opposite might apply.
Neither is right or wrong, but what can hamper you is not knowing which is truly you. So in that example you might feel conflicted if you work to live every time you have to stay late (no matter how much you enjoy your work), or if you live to work you might feel the pressure to “want” to be at home, and find yourself cancelling personal events at the last minute because of work, while secretly not really minding.
When you know which is you, you can be more honest with yourself and others – authentic even!
Quite often when people are asked their values honesty, integrity and family trip off the tongue, but are they the MOST important values to you. Your core values might be about career/work, finances, relationships, family, leisure, travel, fun, personal development health or something completely different. Helen Harrison has designed some fantastic cards that help you consider the myriad of options that might be right for you. There is a difference between honesty and integrity for example, only you know what that difference is for you and if you had to pick between the two what would be the most important? Given that our values are so personal the difference can be subtle, but nevertheless there will be a difference.
One lesson for me from the Safari was to really think about my own values and the values of others so that I give myself the chance to be more emotionally intelligent. That way I will start to get insights into why I feel the way I do. Only then can I be more authentic when I communicate them to others.
Stephanie Morgan FLPI, Director of Learning Solutions, Bray Leino Learning
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