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At work, are you being yourself?
When I recently taught a course for professionals in educator roles, something fascinating happened.
Along with their ‘regular’ roles in which they were already proficient – quality control, IT, customer service – these participants have been involved in some form of teaching, like introducing new software to the organization, reminding colleagues to practice safely, or mentoring new team members. What was different about this educator role was that it was uncomfortable, stressful – and ultimately less impactful.
In the course, we immersed ourselves in adult learning models, experimented with making learning both meaningfully challenging and fun, practiced opening up to others’ perspectives, worked on being clear on our intent, and brainstormed ways to measure outcomes. The group shared experiences, listened with curiosity, joked about their quirks, and passionately considered approaches that were new to them.
But as they stepped in front of their peers to put the new ideas into practice, these established professionals were no longer themselves. They shifted to being performers, acting out what they believed was expected of them in the role of ‘teacher.’ They lost their authentic ‘flow,’ their genuine connection with the group and, I would argue, their impact. Disoriented by this shift, their peers – as learners – began to focus on the imperfect performance rather than being immersed in curious discovery and guided towards the intended learning outcomes.
It is not how we perform the roles we step into (e.g., teacher), but how we are with those around us (teaching) authentically, that creates connection and yields impact.
This is true of the impact of our leadership in any role. We create impact not by performing the role of leader according to what we think others may expect (wouldn’t that be merely self-preservation by pleasing others?), but by leading – relating, communicating, acting – with clear intent and courageous authenticity. Leadership, thus, is being our true selves in inspiring the collective pursuit of a higher cause.