Being a Leader Means Being Authentic - My Thoughts From WBENC 2015
"Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling, and doing the same thing – consistently. This builds trust, and followers love leaders they can trust."
– Lance Secretan

At the end of June I had the pleasure of attending and exhibiting at the Women's Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) National Conference and Business Fair in Austin TX. All three companies of Bishop-Wisecarver Group are certified women owned with Bishop-Wisecarver Corp being certified since July of 2011. Since then I've looked forward to this annual meeting. It is an inspirational, motivational week that fuels my entrepreneurial spirit. This year I saw a pattern that ran through the speeches of several of our keynote speakers. In this day and age of TED Talks and the latest book of the week on leadership, it was interesting that the theme I heard was that success comes when one is true to their authentic self.

“Be yourself. The world worships the original.” Ingrid Bergman

Keynote Carla Harris called out authenticity as the “A” in LEADER. She stated “only I can be me” and why try so hard to be something else when being you creates “natural differentiation?" When you are your authentic self it is easier to leverage your intelligence and relationships, be efficient, act with decisiveness, engage your team, and take risks. She summed it all up with a quote I loved – “You can’t be what you can’t see."

As a season ticket holder to the Long Beach Grand Prix, I was really excited to hear keynote Danica Patrick speak. While professing to not be a public speaker, she was actually very good and engaging because she was so comfortable in being her true racing car driver self. She gave us a chronological timeline of her growth as a professional driver. The turning point in her career came when she “embraced who she was and (embraced) being a girl." In a male dominated sport that was risky for Danica to embrace who she was, but it allowed her to focus all her energy on her goals. She stressed it is not about being perfect but that you get going, and get started on your goals. Amen! One of my favorite sayings is “focus on progress not perfection."

The conference ended with the wonderfully motivational keynote of Jonathan Sprinkles. He stressed the need to be authentic as a leader because people won’t really “hear” you till they “know” you. People are motivated by leaders they trust. Being authentic creates a deep level of trust in those around you. He said it best in a great quote “You are born an original, don’t live life as a copy." He stressed that when you stop chasing a paycheck and pursue your true purpose, success will come.

“Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.” Bruce Lee

I walked away from the conference with a greater sense of confidence in being myself as a leader. Will I still watch TED Talks and read leadership books? Yes, but I also realize I have to apply the learning and the tools within the framework of who I am. When I can make those new skillsets part of who I am, then I grow as an authentic leader. Knowing who I am allows me the ability to build a team that best supports the real me. A team that can leverage my strengths and help fill in for my weaknesses – the good, the bad and the ugly.