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The best thing you can do in leadership and life: Unlock Authenticity


Boldly Unbounded in  Authenticity


 

Hello, you Boldly Unbounded Soul ✨


“It’s good you’re leaving. You don’t really fit in with the culture here.”


I was absolutely gutted as a fellow leader, let’s call him James, said this to me when I announced my leaving the company. I still remember that pointed comment as if he said it to me yesterday. The words resounded as I sat in the corner meeting room at a WeWork in San Francisco.


I was broken-hearted, enraged, and shocked. I consider myself a nonviolent person, but at that moment, my hands trembled with the suppressed desire to wind up and clock James right in the face. Or seek safety and bolt toward the nearest exit. I had poured my heart into the work—deeply committed to making an impact in the world—and this was his response to my departure.


But here’s some context before I share what happened next (…did I punch him?).


I was one of the first hires at this startup and—with any high-growth startup—we needed to bring people in quickly to scale our ops. James came with that growth, including his values and his own way of work. And throughout my time there, he made it clear that he disagreed with my mindset, values, and approach to work. Reminding me that I didn’t belong.


“You’re too opinionated.”


“You’re aggressive.”


“You should be available whenever I need you.”


“You don’t work enough hours.”


He said every one of these things to me. And when he didn’t make comments like this, he’d repeatedly make a noise—a deep, throaty eh, hem— to interrupt my speaking. We were both learning how to be leaders, but I really despised how shitty and on edge I felt in his presence.


It didn’t matter that my team was high-performing and consistently exceeded our goals. It didn’t matter that I designed systems and cultivated practices that positively shaped the company culture. It didn’t matter that I adapted to the never-ending chaos of startup life—simultaneously depleting my physical, mental, and emotional health—still delivering the results our investors wanted to see.


I allowed those comments to plant limiting beliefs into my mind like


“He’s right, you’re not _____ enough,” or


“You’re not cut out to work at startups,” or


“Yeah, you are too _____.”


So, I didn’t punch. I didn’t sprint out the doorway. I sat there. Silent. I thought, “It’s just two more weeks, and I’m gone.” But here’s where it gets interesting…


I finished my two weeks, moved to Barcelona, and visited San Francisco a year later. I set aside time to have lunch with my old team, and James was there. Guess what the first thing is he said to me?


Beyond the customary, “Hey! How are you,” he launched into all his recent successes since he had taken over my old team. All of the projects he led and their amazing results. And it hit me—everything he had said to me when we worked together, largely reflected his hidden insecurities.


Like me, he wanted to have an impact. To feel valued. To be accepted.


At that moment, I saw the child version of him seeking a parent’s approval. What he had said wasn’t really about me. It was about the fear of showing up authentically. And the risk associated with embracing his whole, unique self and making it visible to others. His actions were driven by the deep need for acceptance.


We can all relate to that feeling—needing to be accepted (i.e., feel a sense of belonging). I’ve struggled with that throughout my career, too. How about you?


… So, why am I sharing this story with you? Because it has everything to do with authenticity. Moments like these do two things:


  1. Teach us to hide who we are for fear of rejection set by social constructs, and

  2. Shed light on a universal human need (and struggle).


Our innate response as humans is to protect ourselves if there’s perceived danger. And so, we adapt our behavior by shifting more and more into a state of protection rather than connection. We diminish our unique Personal Power and lead a bounded life, hiding our deepest desires and greatest fears. Living small. Living safe.


That’s why authenticity is the greatest gift you can give to yourself.



 


AUTHENTICITY ELEVATES EVERYTHING


Authenticity is leading your life in alignment with your beliefs, values, energizers, mission, and deepest desires, rather than those of societal expectations or other people. It means being true to yourself. Shedding the layers of assigned beliefs, values, and goals you think you should follow, but in reality, make you miserable. The ones that hold you back. The ones that limit your unique Personal Power.



Signs of authenticity in practice.


“Do I live and lead authentically?” you might be asking yourself. Here are signs that you are:


  • You’re honest with yourself and others, paired with compassion and kindness.

  • You take ownership of your actions—both the good and the bad.

  • Your beliefs, values, energizers, deepest desires, and actions align.

  • Others can depend on you because you fulfill your commitment and promises.

  • You make an effort to be curious before jumping to conclusions.

  • You possess deep self-trust and assertiveness to overcome challenges.

  • You consider others’ needs and offer respect. One way you do that is by regulating your emotions.



Authenticity is non-negotiable. Here’s why.


We negotiate all the time. Making trade-offs for a better future. But, I’m curious…


How often do you ask yourself, “Does this align with who I truly want to be?”


Often we negotiate with our authentic selves, without even realizing it. Until we wake up one day and say, “Is this really it? Is this my life?” So, what would happen if you committed to your authentic self every day?


Research has revealed the benefits of living and leading with authenticity…


  • You’re more likely to spend more time and energy pursuing things that inspire you—advancing with energy—and imbuing meaning and joy into your life.

  • You’ll have deeper self-trust, which is the foundation of confidence. You’ll model and encourage trust in your team.

  • You’ll know yourself more deeply and act with integrity, resulting in the ability to cultivate genuine relationships and influence when needed. Why? Others will see your alignment and feel more comfortable being authentic with you, leading to higher trust and loyalty.

  • You’ll have improved well-being, from less stress to higher psychological well-being and happiness.

  • You’ll be more creative, challenge the status quo, and be a better problem solver because you know when to opt out of societal expectations and pressure from others.



Authenticity in Female Leadership


I’d be remiss not to address a deeper systemic dilemma. The impact of authenticity for female leaders. While it’s integral to leading boldly and living unbounded, it can come at a cost—as mine did with James.



  • Female leaders face conflicting expectations—the double-blind dilemma. Think, “You need to be more assertive, but not too aggressive,” or “You’re really ambitious and self-confident, but need to be friendlier,” or, “You’re really helpful and friendly, but you need to be more confident and ambitious.”

  • Company design is not gender-neutral. It’s gender entrenched. Even the most progressive companies trend toward systems, policies, norms, and structures that favor the male life experience. Don’t believe it? Review your company’s design and view it from different perspectives, specifically a marginalized one.

  • Female leaders are more likely to land a leadership role during an organizational crisis, upping the probability of failure.

  • Workplaces often reward individual achievement. Female leaders tend toward collaborative and relational leadership styles which are undervalued and often go unseen. It can prevent promotions, make a layoff decision easier, etc.


Unique Personal Power Practices with Rachel Marie Korb


Authenticity is the ultimate act of exceptional leadership.


Leading with authenticity is a rebellious act. It’s saying fuck you to a flawed system and showing a new way. A more equitable way that inspires a new way of leading, living, and working.


With that said, you have to decide if you want to be a part of that rebellious revolution. Is it worth it for you?


If so, go for it. Shine bright and inspire a new generation of leadership. If not, that’s okay too. You decide what’s worth fighting for. We all have our own paths and this one may not align with yours.



 


UNBOUNDED AWARENESS OF AUTHENTICITY


Let’s wrap up with an exercise you can do today—raising your awareness. What does authenticity look like for you? Most of the time we know it when we feel it, but we can struggle to put it into words.


First, grab a piece of paper, open up a doc to add your responses, or record yourself speaking (this means you’ll filter your responses less and potentially uncover things you normally filter).

Now, think of someone you know other than a significant other… (e.g., someone you’d like to be more connected to or have a deeper relationship with). It could be a friend, co-worker, or a neighbor.


From their perspective, ask yourself:


  • What aspects of you are openly shared?

  • What aspects of you remain unseen by this other person? What don’t you share?

  • What aspects of you have been witnessed by this person, that you perhaps didn’t notice yourself?

  • What would happen if you were to deeply know yourself and authentically align with the whole of who you are, in all aspects and relationships in your life? How would your life be different?


After your reflection, observe yourself over the next 1-2 weeks. Where are you showing up? Where are you hiding? And then decide, "What is one action I want to take to move toward alignment with my whole self?"


See you next week ✨


Rachel's sign off





 


P.S. Need another perspective to explore your authentic self? I’ve got 5 questions to ask you that will challenge and provoke your thinking. Would that be interesting to you?




5 powerful questions with Rachel Marie Korb

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