“Authentic” is the current buzz word of the leadership community. It would be impossible to attend a conference or any other forum devoted to refining the art of leadership without hearing the mantra of authenticity. What I have not heard a lot of talk on, however, is what it really takes to be authentic.
For someone to truly be authentic, meaning that they lead from who they are and not from who they are not, they must first and foremost be self-aware. Self-awareness has many levels and dimensions, but at it’s most basic definition it is “an awareness of one’s own personality or individuality.” I believe in the core of every individual, God has placed gifts inside of each of his image bearers, but our fears and insecurities bury them. Unfortunately, the higher the circles I get into with people where the demand for high capacity leaders is palpably bursting, I am amazed at how some of the people in these discussions are just not self-aware.
What hinders us from full self-awareness is the same thing that hinders us from most good things God has for us… sin. When we break the commandments, we take gigantic steps further and further away from knowing and growing our own personalities and individuality.
First, we covet. We try to steal the gifts and callings that others have and claim them for our ourselves. While I may admire and learn from others, it is a grave disservice to myself and to those I lead for me to try to make things that are not mine, into my own. Here is what I mean. When I was growing up I emulated my basketball game after the one and only, Michael Jordan. Everything was MJ, from how I wore my wristband on my mid-forearm, folded my socks like he did, to how I carried myself. I even tried to copy the legendary strut – all hoopers know what I’m saying. I wanted to be Michael, and doing all of these things at some level was harmless. The problem came as I got older. Still playing basketball, but I found out the hard way that God gave Jordan things that he clearly did not give me. This forced me to discover what ways God gifted me to play the game, and while I still admired MJ, I had to work on Adrian if I ever wanted to actually be good at my craft. Hear me, I could have continued to try to be Michael, and maybe that would have carried me for a little while, but I doubt I would have ever grown to play at the capacity that I eventually did when I embraced who I was as a player. Some leaders copy and walk around with success at times, but as imposters they are not experiencing the deepness of what God has given them. They are not fulfilled and they are not living as they were meant to be.
If we don’t covet, we lust (and sometimes we do both). Sin deceives, this is a fact. What lusting in leadership causes us to do is crave power and platforms. The diabolical part of lust is that it is never satisfied. We might even obtain the crowd and followers we so thirst for, but even these can deceive us. Anything gained through lust eventually crumbles because it’s built on facades. Lust craves to dominate, so as it grows it devalues everything around it, even the object of its desire. So even if the goal is obtained, it has been devalued so much that another goal is required because the initial one no longer satisfies.
One of the worst sins we can commit as leaders is failing to love others as God has loved us. We tear others down as our platform. Leaders have built entire movements and followings on what they are NOT like. They build their lives into a person who is opposite of someone who has hurt them or they don’t like; when we do this, we put ourselves on a pedestal that we are better than this other person. It is toxic and unpleasant and stifles authenticity. We should learn from hurts and pains, but it should never be the platform we build on. You may not agree with what another leader is doing, so what?! Focus on what you are doing, get further in the direction that you want to head and keep moving. In the Church, this can be most detrimental. Jesus died for his bride and when we start throwing rocks at her, we need to evaluate the posture of our hearts and start over if that is what it takes.