Shortly after my daughter Lisa graduated from college, she moved to California and quickly signed up to be a student in actor Jeff Goldblum’s acting school. She called me one day upset because of stinging criticism offered earlier that afternoon by a substitute instructor.
“Mom, he was so cruel! He kept yelling at me to respond to what the other actor was doing! And I was so shaken that I couldn’t think. My energy was firing in a thousand directions and it was impossible to focus.”
“So, how did you handle that?” I asked.
“I cried. Mom, I’ve cried all afternoon because I don’t know what he wants me to do! I don’t understand!”
“What did the other students have to say?”
“They told me that I was so real when I broke down and cried. Of course, I was real! I hurt so badly I couldn’t stop crying.”
After listening for a few minutes, I was pretty confident I understood the problem. Her acting instructor wanted her to play the scene authentically, and for that she needed to be present to the moment. She only became present when she felt the sting of criticism. Contrary to what she thought, she had been “play acting.”
In class later that week, she acted on a suggestion I’d given her, and her instructor was awestruck by the remarkable shift that had taken place in her performance. “Lisa, can you tell us what you did differently today? You were amazing!”
She was authentic— present to what was going on moment to moment. Being present allowed her to experience her feelings. Once she was aware of the other actors on stage, she was able to sense how their actions affected her and responded authentically. As a result, her classmates erupted in heartfelt verbal applause.
It’s no different for any of us, on stage or off. Theatrics are never tolerated. Imitators are exposed, and phonies are quickly spotted. If you desire is to be leader of enduring influence, authenticity is required.
Authenticity is a major leadership competency that comes from expanded awareness of what is going on around you and inside of you. It comes from listening deeply to what is said and to what is left unsaid, and it comes from listening to that wee small voice within.
- Keep a journal and enter times you become aware of your feelings. What are you feeling? What are you thinking? What are you telling yourself? Keep track. This is a powerful tool to monitor your emotions and build emotional intelligence.
- How aware are you of what is going on around you?
- What do you need to do to expand your awareness?