The iconic scene from the movie, A Few Good Men, in which Col. Jessup shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!” during cross-examination, has become a cultural touchstone for the moments that bring us to the brink of wanting the truth to be known but being uncertain about our ability to deliver or hear it. Most people feel the truth is too harsh or real to be uttered aloud, let alone to the person who has to deal with the consequences of our candor.
Sharing our authentic selves is, however, the cornerstone of leadership. Our talents, strengths and skills are the gifts we give to others, and they are only fully accessible when we are honest about our current reality and we are certain about ourselves. People who trust their own value and worth independent of others’ opinions are free to connect and find areas of mutual agreement because the other person’s truth doesn’t interfere with their alignment with their leadership.
Who we are is a constant. What changes is how we feel about ourselves, our ability to express our highest good and our willingness to be seen, heard and valued. What shifts are our beliefs about how others will or will not appreciate us. Out of fear of feeling unwanted and unappreciated, we make up stories about what others are thinking and feeling. Soon we are fully immersed in a story that slowly creeps away from the truth. Distortions about what someone else is thinking or feeling feed our fears about ourselves. Before long we believe things to be true that are based on misperceptions–ours and other people’s.
The only way through this debilitating haze is to be honest, with others, and ourselves. This requires dedication to leading and communicating clearly. Being fiercely authentic means being true to who we are. It’s the only way leaders succeed over the long term because the more comfortable we become with addressing what is real for us, in terms of who we are and what we are experiencing, the easier it becomes to move through difficulties and keep the focus on what works rather than on what doesn’t. When we shift our attention from hiding our truth to sharing our authentic selves, we can begin to catalyze conversations to higher levels of ease and productivity.
Fiercely authentic leadership breaks barriers, eliminates dissension and frees individual expression so that groups and organizations can fully function.
Unfortunately, very few organizations function this way, even though it is the way everyone wants to work. The belief persists that hiding behind truths is better than coming out from behind our false beliefs to discuss what’s real with the people with whom we are spending eight-plus hours a day.
Seeing dysfunction persist day after day and not moving to the solution hinders the organization’s effectiveness and keeps individuals personally and professionally stuck. No one wants issues at work to persist, problems to linger or broken teams to continue. The reason most of us tolerate the intolerable is that too few people are willing to share truthfully what they see from their vantage point and to offer a solution.
Complaining doesn’t solve problems; proactively addressing issues does. When individuals are committed to their leadership, handling the truth is a natural part of how they operate–revealing what is real for them and seeking it out in others to lift everyone toward a better functioning and high-impact environment.
Truth works. When leaders are committed to being their best, the truth is something everyone can handle.
Kathleen’s work redefines what it means to be a leader, showing everyone how to be their best and inspire it in others so that everyone’s talents, strengths and skills are brought into the world to create impact that benefits the greater good. Follow Kathleen today @LeadConn and linkedin.com/in/kathleenschafer.
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