Being authentic

I am just back from watching some amazing stand-up comedians do their thing at Comedy Central in New York city.

One thing I noticed this time while watching them entertain the audience, something that hadn’t occurred to me before, is the importance of developing your own authentic style of funny. This is very apparent when you watch great comedians. No two comedians are alike. I don’t mean in the obvious sense of being different. But the best ones, they have had to take who they are as a person, and amplify that to develop a style of comedy that works best when they deliver it. They are not trying to copy another’s style.

Be it delivery, content, timing, or demeanor I would be willing to bet that who they are on stage is not that much different from who they are in life. Of course, they’ve cultivated and worked at their craft and developed a certain stage persona but if you’re not the loud, funny guy in real life, I’m not sure that you can be the loud, funny guy on stage and be good at being that guy.

You can’t have an impact on people and persuade them if you are going to put on a different skin. Leave that to the film and tv actors. It’s too transparent in real life. It doesn’t work.

I am specifically thinking about this in the context of leadership. What type of a leader are you? How do you motivate your teams? How do you deliver your message? What is your dynamic with people in your organization?

I think about what kind of a leader I am. Am I being myself? Am I being authentic? I sometimes have an out of body experience when I am talking to people in my team. In those moments, I look around the room and wonder if my words are having an impact. The times when I think I am not being effective is when I’m trying to be someone I am not, and saying things in ways that don’t align with who I am.

The best leaders are neither born, nor are they imitating other great leaders. They have strong self-awareness and understanding. Their natural traits paired with deliberate practice, effort, and development is what makes them great, in my opinion.

To influence the people and the outcomes you need, the best strategy is one part you and one part consistent and conscious practice at articulating the best in you.