Who are you? Who are you really? How do you define yourself? Think you know the answer to that? Try it. See if you can come up with the truth of who you are. Clean and pure and honest. Try this....If someone walked up to you today and asked you to describe your best qualities and your worst, how true and accurate do you think your answers would be? Would they be the truth of you, or would they be neatly packaged to highlight what you think the 'good' parts are and downplay the 'bad'? I'm not judging the highlighting itself, but is it the truth? Would they be you, or what you think the world wants to see? Can you see and accept your own truth? I found out last night that it's not always easy to do.
I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about my personal definition of manhood. What I value about being precisely me. Not my biological maleness, but my definition of what it means to be a man. What are those parts of me that are fundamental to me. The values, the qualities, the character....What makes me me? Each of us will have our own set of understandings about what these things are, and that is critically important to understand. Does being a man equal physical strength? Intelligence? Emotional hardness? Softness? Stripping away every other definition that the world bombards us with, what does being a man or woman mean to you, and do you live in accordance with that understanding? Do your actions match your character and values? Is your truth that cleanly lived? The more layers I peel away, the more I am finding out that for me, a lot of my truth has not been cleanly lived. I just got very very good at sliding around in the muck.
I have said many times, that if you want to know who someone really is, take their public 'persona' and then do a 180 degree shift. Take what they give you and spend some time looking right behind that and seeing what you find. Look for the opposites. For many people this will be your first inclination of who they truly are whether or not they know it. In fact, until recently, I had done a damn good job of convincing myself and the world around me that what I was living each day was who I truly am. Oooops! Not so much it seems.
This whole idea came to a head last night. I was asked to list those qualities of mine that I thought were central to my manhood. As I listed some of them, one stuck out and deserved a little more attention. Needed to be looked at more thoroughly. And what I found in the end was what I often give the world is a facade. I present what I think the world wants to see instead of remaining true to who I am at my core. I am not being authentic. I guess at what I think someone might want to see and then craft myself to meet my understanding of what they want. I bet a lot of other people do that too. I am absolutely certain that I'm not alone here. After awhile though, you get so good at shifting and sliding around that you lose sight of who you are. That's what happened to me. I have been denying myself to myself. I have not been truthfully me.
Why does all this matter? Why am I telling you this? Why should you even care? Why all this soul-searching and the journey and all of that? Why share it on a leadership blog? Because it truly does matter. It matters very much if you are ever to be a leader. A leader in your family, in your workplace, in your community. If you are ever to lead, then you have to be authentic. You have to know yourself completely. And you have to continually pull apart the layers of falsity until you get there. That is what I am doing here. I knew that I wasn't being truthful to myself, but couldn't see what the truth was. Now, as I peel back the layers, I may not always like what I see, but I damn sure like knowing that it is at least honest. I am not hiding anymore.
In the purest sense, what sets leaders apart from others is that they are honest with themselves and authentic. They know exactly who the hell they are. They do not placate, or shield, or deny, or hide, or look away from the truth of themselves. They know the good parts and the bad parts in equal measure. They calmly say, "This is who I am. Take me or leave me." And we know who they are too. We can see it, and even feel it when we are around them. When a leader walks in the room, everyone else knows it. It's not the title, or the rank, or any of that crap, it's them. They possess a peace, a calmness, a certitude about themselves that makes the rest of the room take notice. And that calmness and certitude generates from their authenticity. They accept themselves completely honestly and don't give a damn if you do or not. They do not care about your judgement of them for they are the only judge of themselves who matters. They make their choices based upon their values, and their character. They make decisions based upon their understandings and priorities, not yours. And they stand comfortably on that ground.
Those are the type of leaders our Army is crying out for. Men and women of known character and values. Of calm certainty and truth. Men and women who will make the best decisions they can, the best choices for their people, who can see more accurately what the mission demands and rest more peacefully because they are not worried about what the boss might think. Those are the leaders the Army demands.
I came out of last night in a different spot than when I went in. Something I had convinced myself I am, I really am not. My 180 degree rule came home to roost. Ultimately, I am glad of it though. I really am. What I found last night was a sense of calmness and peace knowing that I had settled a small question about who I am. In and of itself, that doesn't make me a leader, but it's a small step closer to becoming an authentic one. And that is the purpose of all of this.
As always, your thoughts and comments are welcome.