My Great Aunt Lillian May Armfield is a heroine of mine. She was Australia’s first plain-clothed policewoman, and after the Sydney police force hired her 1918, she spent over 30 years working in the N.S.W Police force. Of course, it wasn’t easy.
Aunt Lillian wasn’t permitted to wear a uniform or carry a weapon (until much later in her career). She didn’t have her medical costs covered when she was injured on the job, or accrue superannuation like her male counterparts. And she worked in some of the worst slums in Sydney, notoriously fighting against the infamous ‘razor gang’ violence of the 1920s. Yet, through it all, she remained courageously focused on her work helping women who were caught up in the dark underbelly of Sydney to escape to a better life.
In fact, she was such an iconic heroine that she was featured on the show Underbelly. But she died poor and lived with very little recognition of the amazing work that she was doing. However, she never let that stop her. She knew her purpose in life – her truth was saving girls – and she woke up every day and courageously focused on achieving that purpose, no matter how difficult it was.
At her funeral, the then NSW Police Commissioner Mr N.T.W Allan said she was “a pioneer, a pathfinder for the present-day policewoman”.
However, most of us aren’t facing razor-wielding gangs, but chasing courageous authenticity is just as important in our careers as it was for my Aunt Lillian.
Authenticity has been the content buzzword for the last year at least. I’ve written about it before and we often talk about it in my community. And everyone is in agreement – that when it comes to your personal brand or your practice, nobody wants just vanilla all the time, no matter how beautifully it’s presented. Authenticity means embracing the things that make you uniquely you and protecting them at all costs. It’s what makes you memorable and allows you to bring true value to the world.
All of that is still true. But now we need to do more. We need to embrace courageous authenticity.
What is Courageous Authenticity?
Purpose + Attention Out + Connection
Overarching all are the ideas of purpose, attention out and connection. These attributes form the essence of how you can move past authenticity and into courageous authenticity. It’s the connection of these attributes that have formed the purpose that drives you, connects you to your team or tribe and helps you turn your attention outward.
Part 1: Vulnerability
Patrick Lencioni’s best-selling book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, identifies the absence of trust as the first of the five dysfunctions. He says that the absence of trust ‘stems from their unwillingness to be vulnerable within the group’. Because they aren’t genuinely open with one another about their mistakes and weaknesses it becomes impossible to build a foundation for trust.
When building courageous authenticity you start with vulnerability, but it’s not simply being open. With courageous authenticity, it’s about being open without ego.
When I work with CEOs I often find them strongly opposed to putting themselves into their organisation’s social media. They say that they don’t want to make it about them. But research shows that both staff and customers trust an organisation more when the CEO is active and open on social media.
Getting to courageous authenticity means letting go of ego. So, for the CEOs, they need to recognise that putting themselves into social media, and being vulnerable, is not about them. It’s about what’s best for the organisation. We need to shift the language to how we’re going to serve our clients, customers or organisation. Once ego is out of the picture, CEOs, and all other leaders and experts can truly use their vulnerability to help others.
Part 2: Humility
When you’re authentic, you’re self-aware. But in courageous authenticity, it’s not about you anymore. You’ve learned to be self-aware, and you’ve leaned into humility, and now it’s time to go beyond and elevate those values. This is when you go into empathy.
When you have empathetic humility your attention is facing outward. You don’t just understand intellectually what others are going through, but have a deep understanding that comes from recognising and even internalising the emotions of those going through those experiences.
Part 3: Honesty
The last part of the model is about honesty. The more honest and straight you are with people, the more trust that you build. Elevating this honesty means that you’re doing more than just scrupulously telling the truth. You’re also being fair in all of your dealings with people – with your clients, your colleagues and your associates. Fairness is a courageous aspect of honesty.
Being scrupulously fair won’t always win you, friends. Certainly not those that want to be built up despite the situation. But there are times when only straight-talking fairness will help someone move from being stuck, to being able to grow. It’s vital in our businesses that we’re able to do that. True helping means being fair and honest, always.
What’s important here is not so much the disparate parts of vulnerability, humility and honesty. What’s important is what is created where these values intersect. You create trust where vulnerability and honesty intersect. You create fairness where honesty and humility intersect. And you create strength where humility and vulnerability intersect, strength.
It’s these intersections that ultimately lead to elevating your authenticity to courageous authenticity.
I’d love to hear your thoughts…
Jane Anderson is a strategic communications expert, speaker and the author of seven books including the upcoming Catalyst Content. With over 20 years of experience helping people to communicate confidently, she is obsessed with authentic influence and human connection to drive business growth in a world of disruption and automation. She delivers Content Creation Bootcamps (Virtual and Face to Face), Coaching and Keynotes. To inquire about her working with you or your organisation please contact us here.