Authentic leadership is really about owning yourself, knowing who you are and what your leadership style is. Many people don't realize it, but a big part of true leadership is the ability and willingness to identify, accept and share yourself as a whole person - not just someone who works perfectly in an office.
Sharing yourself completely in the workplace is about more than just showing up and being professional. It is how you create true and lasting relationships with your co-workers, communicate clearly with your team and company leadership, and bring your best self to work.
It's Not About Knowing Everything
The truth is, your co-workers want to know you as a whole person, not just the good or shiny side of you.
When I worked in corporate, I struggled most with being vulnerable at work. I always felt like I had to have all the answers all the time. I felt like I had to be perfect. I felt like if someone came to me with a question, I needed to be able to say, "I have a solution for you."
Of course, it is important to be knowledgeable about your field and to be willing to find a solution even when you're not sure. But it's absolutely okay to not know everything because there's no way that anyone actually does know everything.
This is why we work as a team. Every high-powered person with a lot of responsibility surrounds themselves with advisors and experts. There's no reason for us to feel like we have to be experts at everything - that's unrealistic.
It's Okay - Even Good - to Show Emotion at Work
I always thought that, in the workplace, I had to present a cheerful, professional face, no matter how I was actually feeling on the inside or what was going on in my life.
Showing emotions and accepting my weaknesses was definitely not part of presenting a polished exterior 100% of the time. The tricky thing is that our lives simply aren't always perfect. Things don't run smoothly every day, and sometimes things are downright difficult. We're whole people - we have well-rounded family lives, we have friends, and we have personal objectives outside of our professional lives. We should be able to carry that whole person into work, too.
There's no need to hide any part of yourself to create a façade at work. A high performance team needs to trust each other, and openness and communication fosters trust.
Here's an example: if you're having a hard day, it's okay to talk about it in the office. In fact, when a colleague asks how you are, you can reply, "I had a bad morning, so if I come across as a little upset, that's the reason. Please don't take it personally."
Now your team understands what's going on and they can cut you some slack that day instead of becoming frustrated when you don't bring your A Game to the table.
Of course, there's a fine line between sharing your emotional state and downright complaining at work. If your state of mind begins to interfere with your work, your boss will likely approach you and say something like, "Hey, we understand that things are tough, but is there anything you can do or we can do together to make things better for you?" That opens up a conversation.
The Best Leaders Are Approachable
As a leader, you'll notice that the higher up you look within an organization, the more you'll see people who are approachable and open to connection.
A good example is Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson. He is known for remembering all the employees with whom he interacts. When he flies on Delta, you won't see him in business class (though everyone would certainly understand if he chose to sit there!) - instead, you'll find Mr. Anderson sitting in coach so he can understand what his customers experience on his airline.
Mr. Anderson is known for truly connecting with people. He never speaks from "the top down," and he is greatly successful for it. He's open about who he is, and he brings a whole, well-rounded person to the office each day.
When you reflect on your experience in the office, do you see any room to bring more of your whole self into the workplace? People love working with other people, not perfectly polished workers who never show their human side. If you're ready to get more insight into how you can bring your full self to work without crossing the line into the complaining zone, let's talk. I work one-on-one with corporate clients to establish growth and expansion in their career. Click HERE to setup a time to talk and discuss how coaching can help you to become better at connecting and communicating with your colleagues.
Nozomi Morgan, MBA, is a certified Executive Coach and the Founder and President of Michiki Morgan Worldwide LLC. Addition to coaching, she speaks and trains on leadership, career, professional development and cross-cultural business communication.