By: Gregg Dedrick, Co-Founder & President of David Novak Leadership
How often have you been encouraged to just be yourself? You get this coaching from others throughout your life and while it sounds good, and could even be considered helpful, it’s often easier said than done. Fear can creep in. You might feel tempted to conform and fit in rather than be true to yourself. You wrestle. I personally believe that in reality, it’s much harder to be yourself than most people are willing to admit.
But I also know that when you hide your best self to be something that you’re not, it can come across as inauthentic. Others often see right through you and you can lose trust in those relationships.
So how do you learn to be your best self when faced with the reality that it can be really difficult?
I’ve focused on being my best self throughout my career. However, I’m not perfect at it. I even learned about the importance of being my best self through an embarrassing lesson at the age of 43 while President of KFC.
My dream job was to become president of a business, and I was excited about making a positive impact on the KFC brand and people working with me. Since the business had been in a state of decline, I had the opportunity to turn it around while incorporating some fun. Note my emphasis on fun…
After a year as president, the business was improving and I wanted to celebrate this accomplishment with the restaurant general managers that made it happen. More than two thousand managers came to Louisville for this celebration. During the planning process, someone from my team pitched the idea to create a video to play on the bus ride from the hotel to our facilities. My role in the video was to welcome the managers to Louisville and share what they could expect in the days ahead.
Insert the fun here: I was cast as the narrator for a David Letterman spoof, complete with an opening monologue and Letterman-style Top Ten List. The problem with this fun approach is I’m terrible at delivering one-liners. And I prefer handwritten notes, not teleprompters. I know this about myself, yet I went along with the plan. Do you think I came across as my best self? Absolutely not! I still cringe when I watch the video and clearly see how I wasn’t my best self at all. I was stiff, when I’m usually informal. It was evident that I was reading off the teleprompter, which is not how I deliver the best speeches. The only saving grace of the video was when I ditched the script, put on a pair of feathery chicken feet, and did what I naturally do best: I walked through the KFC Headquarters talking to whoever I met along the way about everything from the history of Colonel Sanders to what we do in our research kitchen.
This lesson in being your best self became part of my leadership program. I show the bus video (although sometimes I leave the room because I can’t bear to watch it!), to emphasize how easy it is to tell when someone isn’t being themselves.
While it’s important to be your best self, I must highlight this caveat: As a leader, being your best self does NOT give you permission to treat everyone with a take me as I am or leave mindset. Instead, you have to figure out a way to be true to yourself while broadening your appeal and impact rather than turning people off or unnecessarily clashing with company culture. You engage with all kinds of people as a leader. Consider how you can be yourself while respecting the unique approaches of others too.
Do you lead while being your best self? Do you have a story like mine where you weren’t your best self and it showed? Answer these questions to help you understand how often you lead as your best self:
- When have you struggled with being your best self?
- Do you tend to conform based on what others want, or do you tend to stay true to yourself? Explain your answer.
- What keeps you from being your best self?
Download this guide to dig deeper into how you can become your best self. Let’s unite around the power of being our best selves as we lead others to become their best selves because as Leo Buscaglia says: The easiest thing in the world to be is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don’t let them put you in that position.”
Do you know someone who might find these tips on being your best self helpful? Then pay it forward by sharing this blog and guide with them today. You never know how the simple act of sharing leadership tips with others can inspire them to become a better leader.
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