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Becoming An Authentic Leader

Source | | Divya Parekh

As Eckhart Tolle said, “Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.”

Authenticity is a favorite buzzword of the 21st century, yet it is one of the most commonly misunderstood. As youths, we were encouraged to be ourselves, think independently and not follow the crowd. What kid hasn’t heard a parent say, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?” The lesson of being true to one’s self is clear in our youth, but we seem to lose track and settle for a misguided definition of authenticity as we become involved with our careers.

I felt this way for years before the meaning of being sincerely authentic became clear to me. I was reflecting on an uncomfortable situation in which I had to step out of my comfort zone to live my life in alignment with my values. I believe the lesson is important to anyone who struggles to find their authentic self. I found myself relating this concept to others in my work.

It began with Sally, who contacted me after deciding to transition from a 10-year career in the corporate world into the uncertainty of entrepreneurship. During her time in corporate America, she was an absolute powerhouse. As a senior executive at a Fortune 500 company, she was a part of nearly every major business decision. A pillar of the community, she was instantly recognizable as an inspiring person with a heart for service.

Despite her corporate success, however, she felt that her entrepreneurial pursuits had yet to see the same level of achievement. After two and a half years as an entrepreneur, she noticed that the passion she once had for her business was waning. Sleepless nights became the norm. Her efforts became focused more on quantity and not quality. She lacked the grit that had served her so well in the male-dominated corporate environment and her first year of business. We both shared a love for the ocean, so one day I suggested we take a walk along the beach to unpack some of the issues she was facing. It was during that walk that one word changed the trajectory of her business forever. That word was mindfulness.

Merriam-Webster defines “mindfulness” as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.”

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