American Idol Authenticity

I admit it – I’m an American Idol fan and will be sad when it’s gone. I’ve watched season after season as the next crop of hopeful musicians show us their stuff. I love to see them grow in their talent and performance abilities throughout the season. I’m fascinated by what the judges see and how they give feedback. The thing that’s captured my attention is the judges’ focus on authenticity. The highest compliment seems to be “I believed you!”

In working with leaders who are developing their leadership presence, our mission is to help them find their Signature Voice, which is not so different from what the judges on Idol are noticing. As leaders, their influence is based on being able to inspire and have impact on others. Every story is different. Every style is different, but when you find your authenticity, your Signature shows through.

While authenticity may seem like an intangible leadership concept, if you think about the best leaders you’ve known, it’s likely that you’d describe them as authentic. During times of change or challenge, authentic leaders are the ones people look to for guidance and inspiration, who provide stability to an organization. They are like the rudder that keeps everyone moving in the right direction. As we work with leaders who are developing their authenticity, we will often consider the following questions:

1. What is My Style and Value?

Just like the country singer who knows which songs are going to suit the tone of his voice, authentic leaders find the roles and contributions that they are best suited to. They are aware of themselves, their style, preferences, and the value they can bring to their organization. They know when they’re at their best and how to operate at their best more often.

2. Why Am I Doing What I Do?

On Idol, we’ve seen some of the best singers so far say they can’t not sing. Likewise, the most authentic leaders are ones who are meant to do what they’re doing. They are clear about their own purpose and have found a way to bring that to their work. It’s the head of engineering who coaches a robotics team on the side for fun, or the head of a fashion company who was voted Best Dressed in high school. They have a personal passion, interest and talent for what they’re doing and creating and it shows through to inspire others.

3. What do I truly believe?

To be believable you have to believe. Authentic leaders are not just “singing the notes on the page”, or repeating the party line. Authentic leaders do the hard work regularly to determine what they truly believe. They don’t see themselves as a pass-through for a message that someone else has determined. They own their messages.

4. What am I feeling?

On Idol, you notice the contestants who sing from their heart, and it’s no different in leadership. The “feeling” word is a tough word for many leaders, but authenticity comes through when you’re human and are willing to share emotion appropriately. Talking with excitement about a successful project, or describing disappointment in losing a big deal enables people to connect and believe you.

When leaders have mastered these key questions (and that isn’t an afternoon activity but is usually a journey for most of us), their words, body language and emotions will be in alignment. They will have the ability to connect with people and create an engaged followership.

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