I recently met with the highly energetic Tim Ebbeck, the former CEO of Oracle Australia who is a big follower of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “To lead the people, walk behind them.” Tim will be speaking at our Authentic Leadership event on November 30th.

In this video, Tim shares the importance of leaders standing up and speaking up for what they believe in . At a recent contracting gig I did, one of the leaders thought my dress code was casual and not professional enough (I was wearing jacket and tie but it was not a one colour dark suit!)

I’m pretty sure I didn’t look like a slob and more importantly, I believe it’s how I treat and care for my client that determines my relationship with them and not if I wear a suit or jacket/tie! Yet I couldn’t say that. I just froze, nodded my head and walked away. Looking back, I realised that it was because of my fear of confrontation which prevented me from speaking my truth and standing up for what I believed in.
Since then, I’ve asked myself how I could have been more authentic in my approach and I came to realise that I needed to be more curious and try and understand why the leader felt that way.  Maybe he had had a bad experience with a customer who had given him a hard time?
As Tim puts it, I’ve learnt to be “firm on the issue and soft on the person’ which has helped me speak my truth. Finding that inner strength to speak up has come through lots of silent reflection time and better understanding my fear of confrontation, which was because my parents used to fight about money when I was a kid. I’m learning that being authentic is truly an art – too much can be damaging and not enough, can have no impact.

So how authentic are you with your team or stakeholders? Are you always sharing what is on your mind and not listening enough? Or are you not sharing what’s really on your mind? Can you “be real” with them without rocking the boat? And most importantly are you aware of the fears that might be holding you back from speaking your truth?
After all, isn’t great leadership about how we have the tough conversations?