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Work Life Lead: The Steward’s Authenticity

IMG_0358 The motto of my home state North Carolina is Esse Quam Videri It means “To Be, rather than To Seem.” I find this a good place to start a discussion about what it means to be an authentic steward.

Can a person seem like a steward and not be one? Can a person seem to lead and not?

What is authenticity in the context of being a steward and leader of a business?

Is it?  “What you see is what you get?” Not exactly.

Is it when a person’s words and actions are align? Possibly. But not always. It has to do with something more than that

To be, rather than to seem implies that a person is the real thing.  But what is the real thing?

For something or someone to be real, it means that it or they are a genuine representation of the idea or thing they represent.

What does it mean for someone to be an authentic steward of their business, organization or community?

It means that stewardship is more than a tactic, more than a slogan, more than a brand. It is something genuine and real in the person herself that people identify as representative of what it means to be a steward.

Being a steward is not something you just do by following some formula.  It is something you do because of who you are. It is something that you become by doing, and allowing the doing to change into what you aspire to be. If life were not so, we’d never become anything more than what we were at our last moment we stopped growing, stopped becoming.

For example, there are many musicians who can play note for note J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. But none played them with quite the same authenticity as Glenn Gould played it in his 1955 debut album. Listen and watch him play in this Google video.  In the original recording, you can hear him humming along. Many other pianists have recorded this collection of solo piano pieces, but it was Gould who played it as it was living with him. There is authenticity in his playing as a result.

To be authentic means that we are the embodiment of the idea that we represent. When we stand before a group and speak on the topic of our passion, the more the message comes from deep within, the more authentic it becomes.

I am saying that leadership, stewardship and authenticity is more than tactical management process. It has a moral component to it. Not that of moral obligation, of simply knowing right from wrong. It goes deeper than that.  It is moral in that it built upon a platform of values that unite the various parts of the organization together as a whole.  This authenticity is a product of the stewards and leaders who embody these values in how the function within the company.

To be authentic, to be seen as a living embodiment of the ideals and values of your business is to have earned the respect and trust of people. To be recognized as authentic is an honor that becomes a platform for expanding the reach of the company’s impact.

Today, there is no fooling people. Either you are authentic, a real steward, a trustworthy leader, or you are not.

If you are becoming that kind of steward or leader, then you are authentic. If you are not becoming, you cant’ fake the authenticity. To be authentic creates a platform that attracts people to join and contribute. This another way that a steward creates a culture of sustainability that enables their businesses or communities to manage the challenges and transitions that we are facing.

Authenticity isn’t a title, it is a way people measure whether we are worthy of their trust.  Today, there is no rarer or more important currency than trust, which is the product of authentic leadership.

How do you become an authentic steward or leader?

You have to want it. It must first be a desire that makes you willing to become a different person than you have been.

You must accept responsibility and being willing to be accountable. As you do so, you also accept your own limitations, and embrace the strengths and abilities of others. Stewards understand that they can’t do it all themselves. To be authentic is to be real, and that means we do not present a false face to the world.

You have to make connections. This is especially with people who share a similar view point. Within your organizations are people who are invisible stewards who come to work everyday and work as authentic workers for the company. They don’t attract attention to themselves. They come in, contribute their best, and leave quietly without fanfare. These people need to be found, so that the stewardship of the work they do is supported and appreciate.

It is not too simple to say that to be an authentic leader or steward begins with one’s relationship to people. Where there is respect, trust, openness, honesty, caring and accountability,  there is a platform for the development of the stewardship of authenticity throughout the organization. This is not a pipedream, but one of the reasons why so many businesses survive the trauma of economic decline. These authentic stewards of the company are the hope for the future.

About the author

Dr. Ed Brenegar I'm a leadership speaker, writer and consultant who is a mentor and catalyst for change. I assist leaders and their teams in the transitions required to succeed in today's complex organizational environment. I live in Western North Carolina. I'm involved the Boy Scouts, a charitable leadership training group called Lessons In Leadership, an ordained Presbyterian Church USA minister, and am the host of the Say Thanks Every Day social network.

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Posted in General Leadership.