The chapter “Face the Dragon” in Henna Inam’s book, Wired for Authenticity, Seven Practices to Inspire, Adapt, and Lead resonated with me.
Generally, I have no problem speaking up and sharing my thoughts. However, I hate disappointing others, so it can be difficult for me to set boundaries or speak my truth when I know it will upset someone else. I’m working on improving this, but standing up for myself can be difficult.
I think this is why I was excited to read Henna’s book. Being an authentic leader and speaking my truth is something I strive for in my work everyday – in fact, it is the basis of it.
I usually work with product teams that practice Agile methodologies. Agile is an approach to making software, guided by 12 principles addressing teamwork, collaboration, flexibility, and achieving results.
The Agile community frequently discusses transparency, honesty, serving a team, adapting to change, and setting goals. We talk about being authentic. A lot. And the approach is becoming mainstream because it’s a more efficient and effective way to work.
Given all that my colleagues and I discuss regularly, I was curious how she approached authenticity and leadership.
Henna opens her book by clearly defining authenticity:
“Authenticity is not deciding who you are and then rigidly applying this to every leadership situation. Instead, authentic leadership is leading adaptively from your core, choosing who you need to be to serve the greatest good in this moment.”
In our individual journeys, I think we all ask ourselves, who is the “real me?” I know I am a work in process, constantly testing and refining my identity and boundaries. With that said, it takes a while to learn the truth about we really are, what we want, and what we value. It’s hard. And sometimes it’s hard to make the right decisions to express yourself and what you need because it’s not the comfortable path.
Henna continues defining authenticity as it not only come from being honest with yourself – each of us needs to slow down, get centered, be present, go beyond our “hardwiring” and experience, to really listen to that inner self and learn what inspires us. According to Henna, we tend to hide – and hiding doesn’t contribute to great leadership.
“Authentic leadership is the full expression of “me” for the benefit of “we.”
What stops us? Often self-sabotage. It happens for men and women, similar yet different. It’s about not speaking up, replaying and questioning actions and decisions, compartmentalization, protecting the ego, hiding emotions, and more.
To get beyond these and be truly authentic, she presents 7 practices:
- Befriend your body – 93% of our communication is non-verbal – our body exhibits what we are feeling, consciously or unconsciously. To be authentic– mean what we say and say what we mean – we need to be connected to our body and aware of what we are feeling. Henna provides excellent guidance on how to get there.
- Stay curious – Being curious helps us constantly learn and grow. She encourages the reader to ask questions about everything and challenge every view. Know what drives you.
- Let go – She identifies 9 ways we hold ourselves back from being ourselves and achieving our highest good. She also coaches us how to move past trying to control what we can’t control (other people, situations) rather than what we can control (our emotions, actions and decisions).
- Give yourself an A – Accept yourself – even your “inner loser.” She guides us how to rewire our neural pathways to maintain high self-worth regardless of circumstances.
- Choose Be before Do – “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” (p.111) This is one of my favorite sections. We live in a “doing” culture, believing that we need to take action to get anything done. At times, the best way to get anything done is to let life unfold, be in the moment, and reflect upon what you want.
- Face the Dragon – My favorite example is how a baby learns to walk. A baby needs courage to try, fall down, and try again until he succeeds. We need to bring this courage into our daily lives – to try, to fail, to keep going. Courage is hard!
- Dance with the Dream – Passion is important. We need to put our passions into our work to make our dreams come alive. Living your passions is the only way to be true to yourself.
She structures each practice into sections:
- An overview providing guidance and sharing stories
- An exercise to find your ally, or inner persona that reflects that trait
- Summary of 3 big ideas from the practice
- Questions to ask yourself for self-work
- Activities to change yourself
Before she describes how to lead an authentic team, she encourages you to go to her Web site and complete an evaluation to help you learn about your own authenticity – strengths and weaknesses. It’s only when you are aware of yourself that you can lead a team to authenticity.
The sections about leading authentic teams reminded me of those Agile methodology discussions –honesty, transparency, team/self awareness, openness. She described how you can apply the 7 practices to your teams, and I learned a few ways I can bring this to Agile teams I work with to make them stronger.
Henna’s book is a hands-on manual that will change you.
How did I change? I need to grow my own business and make time available for additional clients and other work. Her book influenced me to take the plunge and shift my 40 hrs/week contract gig to 20 hrs/week. It’s a difficult switch – knowing where money is coming from to some uncertainty – but it’s a switch I need to take to do what’s best in the long-term. I’m now “facing the dragon” and standing with courage to make my dreams real. I look forward to re-reading Henna’s book and experiencing another shift to become the leader I am meant to be.