The only way to truly be unique in this world is to be you and then to allow that to be the case no matter what without exception.
Questions, always so many questions. The questions that are on my mind today revolve around the importance of being yourself and how much of yourself you should make known to those who are counting on you to be there for them.
You have undoubtedly been advised to be yourself or to be true to yourself on multiple occasions throughout your life. Generally good advice to follow, but often also used as a panacea for all situations even though there may very well be valid reasons for you to conceal at least a part of who you are and what you might be thinking.
Being yourself isn’t as easy as it may sound, especially if you are in a position of leadership. One reason is that when you allow people to see you for who you really are, you put yourself in a vulnerable position. When you reveal personal thoughts and share your experiences, you run the risk of being subject to additional criticism and disappointment, and of not living up to vaulted expectations or inflated opinions.
With these thoughts in mind, when you are in a situation where people are counting on you for insight, advice, and guidance; are you more credible if you reveal less of your personal nature and maintain more of the perception of your strength as a decision maker? I think it depends on how you can best relate to those people.
A big part of effective leadership, perhaps THE biggest, is that leader’s ability to relate to those he or she is called upon to lead. Relatability underscores every other action you take as a leader.
When you communicate, your message must be understood by and applicable to your audience if you are going to achieve the objective you set when you drafted your message. When you make a decision that impacts your team, you must be able to demonstrate that your decision incorporates their best interest. When it is time to listen, which is most of the time, you must be able to take action and/or respond in a way that lets your employee or team member know that you understood what they were telling you.
What about when it comes to parenting? While there isn’t a business aspect to parenting, at least as it is defined in the traditional sense; relatability is still a core issue if you are going to be effective in your parental role. What is the best way to relate to your children? Are you more effective as the authority figure who creates distinct boundaries and consequences for actions that overstep those boundaries?
Relatability is key. How you best achieve it is the question. Do you emphasize the business and professional aspects of your experiences or the personal aspects of your decision making to illustrate that relatability?
In order to be relatable, you must first be able to effectively evaluate the needs of the people you need to relate to. Does this sound counterintuitive to you, if the theme is to be true to yourself? Let’s see if we can tie it all together.
Everyone has their own perception of what a leader means to them and what it takes to be considered one. Your job, in your vocation or at home, is to figure out what your team or your child requires and then to provide them with exactly that in a way that is true to who you are and what you are capable of. Your job is not to be the leader they think you are or to live up to whatever perception your team or children have of you, even if you deflate a few opinions in the process.
I believe that most of us want to relate. We want to share experiences with others and develop meaningful relationships, but sometimes concerns over how we should act, what we should say, and what other people are going to think get in the way of those experiences being shared and those relationships developing to the fullest extent possible.
Being yourself does not mean that you must go around sharing every personal thought you’ve had, or every embarrassing moment you’ve experienced, or every secret you keep. It means being comfortable enough with who you are and understanding what your team, or your friends, or your children need from you and then being true enough to do what needs to be done or say what needs to be said.
Even if you are not naturally a funny person, your true self can deliver a funny line if your ability to relate to someone is counting on it and you don’t spend time trying to guess if it will be funny enough or as funny as what someone else who is more humorous might have said.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a strict parent, your true self can ensure that a consequence is in place to help govern the actions of your children.
If you are generally a rule follower, your true self can help you identify what rule might be okay to bend if the situation calls for it.
If you tend not to take the world too seriously, your true self can also give you the courage to be very serious and direct if someone you care about needs your undivided attention.
The point is that we are not built as absolutes. None of us are absolutely one way, or the other, every minute of our lives. We are flawed. We sometimes contradict ourselves. We are emotional. We can have the best intentions and get misled. We sometimes do the right thing for the wrong reason and the wrong thing for the right reason.
For all these reasons, we want to relate to each other. We want to understand others and what makes them tick. We want to know that we are not alone. We want to be reassured and comforted.
When relating to others becomes the focus, you see yourself in others and you allow your true self to take over. When you take the time to understand what your co-worker, your child, or your neighbor needs from you; your true self is capable of taking over and delivering in the clutch.
If you are a leader and/or a parent, your desire to relate is a mirror reflection of what your team member or child is seeking from you. By being who you are, you are giving them what they need.
Being someone else or constantly trying to live up to other people’s perceptions of who you are is exhausting and it does not work in the long run. The only way to truly be unique in this world is to be you and then to allow that to be the case no matter what without exception.
Be vulnerable. Be caring. Be humane. Be intense. Be engaged.
Relate and be true to you.