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Leading Authentically – There is No Other Way

Sue Heilbronner
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January 12, 2015
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I live in Boulder and have the privilege of being surrounded by an incredibly vibrant business ecosystem – mainly populated by early and mid-stage companies, as opposed to the Fortune 500. This means that both my “work” and social environments involve a good deal of conversation about how to (a) become a more advanced leader tracking with company growth; and (b) build out a team and various skill sets within that team to grow in all the right areas.People seem to be searching for steps and formulas, and there is no question that the bookThe 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership contains 15 very solid recommendations. For me, however, the “system” is fairly straightforward. I lead through authenticity.I teach through authenticity.I consult through authenticity.I sell through authenticity.I invest through authenticity.I play, hike, drink beers, go for walks, and choose close friends … through authenticity.These refer to two of the foundational commitments:

Commitment 4, Candor: I commit to saying what is true for me. I commit to being a person to whom others can express themselves with candor.

Commitment 6, Integrity: I commit to the masterful practice of integrity, including acknowledging all authentic feelings, expressing the unarguable truth and keeping my agreements.I can imagine this approach sounds simplistic. But for those of you who like steps, especially those who prefer sequences of three when trying to make a point, here’s how I implement these commitments into my life, both personal and business:A question is posed, or a conflict arises, or a decision is up for the making:

1. First, I clearly frame the issue in my own mind and frequently for the group. I and others I’m with share the relevant “facts” that exist around this issue without advocacy or posturing.

2. Second, I pause to see what my intuition tells me and what feelings I have around the issue. If I’m with a group, I ask each of them to do the same.

3. Third, I speak my own authentic truth, either before or after I have asked the others in a consideration group to do the same. And, I listen deeply to myself and to the others.

I deploy this strategy not only in my consulting work with leadership teams and my own leadership of my own company, but also in routine decisions I make. I am occasionally asked to speak to groups of students or entrepreneurs. As I consider what I might speak about, I run through these three steps, generally concluding (and usually telling my audience) that I have learned that if I just talk about what is authentically “hot” for me in that moment, I usually seem to offer value to a crowd. When I was invited to speak at TedX Boulder, an associate asked me what I might speak about that would bolster my business. I ultimately decided that I would not focus on that goal at all. Instead I chose to challenge my own edge of authenticity and give a talk that scared the heck out of me. Naturally, the talk has been invaluable in supporting my business goals.As pat as this approach may sound, it seems to be resonant and, I’m told, materially different from the way I led before being exposed to the work of The Conscious Leadership Group. I could always rely on my smarts, insights, and instincts, but now instead of seeing in me someone who rocks the boat, people routinely comment that I show up as “grounded” and “real.” I have far more consensus in my life without the prerequisite of intense conflict and post-mortem apologies. The routine practice of letting people see emotions like fear or sadness in the context of business decision-making makes an enormous difference in allowing those around me to see me better and to allow me to see them in return.I’m sold. I’d love to hear your practices around authenticity.

About the Author
Sue Heilbronner

Sue Heilbronner brings to CLG her broad business leadership background having led a number of entrepreneurial tech companies. With highly developed skills in group facilitation, Sue blends her skills in leadership and personal evaluation and evolution, making her uniquely effective in facilitating the adoption of conscious leadership principles by willing business teams. Sue has seen proof of the game-changing business impact of the CLG “operating system" on real people in real companies, and she loves the opportunity to deliver this breakthrough body of work to forward-leaning firms.