Blog Post


It’s the most scary but liberating experience I continue to have

D.N.A. Authenticity

When coaching healthcare leaders, the most frequent desire I hear is their wish to trust the people on their teams; for them to act with integrity and be accountable for their results. My “Yoda-like” response always makes them laugh and recoil at the same time. I say, “My friend, to fulfill that desire you must be ready to face yourself, your fears and be a model of your own request.”

You see, I speak from experience about one of the most scary but liberating experiences I continue to have…being authentic. I’ve found over the years that trust, integrity and personal accountability are three essential ingredients of authentic leadership and although they are frequently taught as separate topics, they are inextricably linked. One  cannot be taught or employed without the other. And, oh my goodness, walking the path of an authentic leader is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts, cultivating a healthy relationship with self and intentionality but the rewards are well worth it.


The Authentic Leadership of Bobby Jones

The story of golfer Bobby Jones is a great example of what I’m talking about. Bobby Jones was considered to be one of history’s greatest golfers but, what he was most famous for is what happened in the 1925 U.S. Open. During the game, Jones inadvertently touched his ball and assessed himself a one-stroke penalty (demonstrating personal accountability), even though no one else saw him touch the ball (showing integrity). By assessing himself that penalty (a demonstration of trusting himself), he lost the Open by that one stroke.

Even though it happened nearly 100 years ago, this story is still being published and referenced today because let’s face it, it’s inspiring. Jones’ empowered relationship with himself was more important than “the win”. It allowed him to respond authentically to what happened instead of from a fear of loss or a desire to look good to others. He was clear about his commitment to the game, and understood his value with or without the trophy. 


The Challenges of Embodying Authentic Leadership

It took some time for me to embody the authenticity that Bobby Jones modeled. As a consequence, my in-authenticity cost me my freedom of choice, my voice and my health on far too many occasions. Curiously, I discovered it also had its benefits. I got to be “right”, justify my actions, validate my point of view, blame, self-flagellate and burn out. Although it was hard to see the benefit in those things at first, in time I realized that when my vitality took a hit, it was easier to  be a victim, get sympathy and have an excuse than it was to be accountable for the part I played in my dissatisfaction or festering internal conflict.

Authenticity has required me to tell the secrets I have kept from myself, about myself.

Though I’ve always strived to be authentic I’ve found some hurdles along the way. The first ones were admitting I was afraid of rejection and then learning to trust myself. Thankfully when I committed to overcoming those self-imposed barriers, my mom’s beliefs about trust flooded my memory. No matter what dilemma I had, she would always end our conversations by saying two things;“remember, you cannot serve two masters. It is either truth or deceit” and “fear is only a sign of misplaced trust. Who or what are you giving it to?” Re-igniting those truths beneath all the armor I’d collected through the years and applying them was challenging. 

As you might imagine, facing my fear of rejection was scary too. Like many people, at an early age I learned that exposing what I really felt, thought or observed did not always end well. To avoid future judgment, punishment or rejection I unwittingly adopted the habit of hiding, suppressing or ignoring what was really going on inside me. After many years, staying quiet or deceiving myself to avoid rejection just became “normal”. I had to slow down enough to turn off my auto- pilot responses and let my inner compass guide me.

Another hurdle I faced was making sure that the words I spoke during interactions aligned with my promise to trust myself and be accountable for the results of my conversations.  Instead of acting as if I had all the answers, I learned to listen, to be compassionate, to discern and then to respond. I paid close attention to ensure it was my authentic voice guiding me instead of the identity I had created for myself; the person I wished I was, aspired to be, or thought I needed to be in order to win. For example, I noticed the temptation to refrain from “telling the whole truth” to high level executives and employees about the role they were playing in the “toxic” culture they complained about for fear of losing a contract.  

Somewhere inside each of us is a desire to embody an unshakeable relationship with ourselves.

Reassuringly over time, the habit of blaming and complaining about my feelings or results just didn’t make sense anymore (personal accountability). I also noticed that trying to get validation by explaining or justifying my thoughts or behaviors, signaled I was placing trust outside myself and I didn’t have to do that anymore. (self trust).  Ultimately, I granted myself permission to act on what felt true and right for me no matter the outcome (integrity)

Authentic leadership has required me to question my motivations, observe how I feel, witness myself in action, and cultivate the courage to speak up. I’ve had to take the time to discover what outdated beliefs about leadership trap me in emotional upsets and away from being authentic. I listen for cues that would tempt me to violate my own conscience like; it doesn’t matter, it’s no big deal or my personal favorite, it’s fine.  It’s not always comfortable to be authentic but in my opinion the constraint of remaining disempowered is much worse. If I must dim my light to “stay safe”, thank you but I’ll pass. 

24.03 -DNA-authenticity Quote in Blog

My life has become far easier letting my inner coach lead the way and I’m amazed at how much more effective I am at what I do. I feel vibrant, energized, lit up, and creative because I am FREE! It feels so good!  

Empowered People are Mighty People

Authentic leaders (and we are all leaders)  who trust themselves , act in integrity and account for the part they play in the whole, without diminishing themselves or dismissing another, is what will finally result in our collective success as a people.  One person’s authentic expression won’t always gain everyone’s approval but that’s ok because it’s not meant to. God made us all different for a reason. That is why Authenticity is a core component of D.N.A. – The Cure for Medical Error and an Unhealthy Healthcare Industry. Which is also the name of my soon to be released book. 

To learn more about D.N.A.-Meet DIFFERENCES with NEUTRALITY and respond with AUTHENTICITY you can sign up for our Win@Work Newsletter. Every month we share practical and instantly applicable tips for transforming the culture of your workplace. Building community is so important and we love to connect.

D.N.A the N for Neutrality

Uptight or just good posture?

Meeting differences with neutrality, meaning with non-reaction and non-judgment, is very challenging. But I found an easy and fun way to practice it daily which I share in this blog today.

Read More »

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