Being a successful creative leader is all about authenticity, says Tanya Livesey, Leadership Coach and Global Head of Creative Talent at The Talent Business. Trying to be someone you’re not is asking for trouble.
Success can be a double-edged sword for those in the creative industries. Great work brings accolades, status and promotions – it also brings visibility.
Yet being in the limelight is not always a comfortable place for creatives because the introspective nature of creativity goes hand-in-hand with the often-introverted tendencies of its best practitioners. However, once you take on a leadership position, you have no choice but to step onto the stage in front of your team, your clients and even the industry, and that can be a tough role for the audience-shy to play.
The relentless drive for new business also adds to the constant pressure to perform and conform to our preconceived leadership ideals: the charismatic frontman, the inspiring orator, the powerful figurehead – so most feel huge pressure to live-up to these lofty expectations. Unfortunately, for those in charge, wearing the mantle of ‘leader’ can often make you feel like you’re dressed in someone else’s clothes.
Pretending to be someone you’re not is physically and mentally exhausting….And it’s not just you it hurts: an ill-at-ease leader will quickly create an environment of anxiety and uncertainty
The reality is that creative businesses require their leaders to wear so many hats, you can’t expect to fit them all. Importantly, if you’re not a natural showman, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a hugely effective leader. On the contrary, a recent study called the CEO Genome Project, which spent a decade studying more than 2,000 CEOs, concluded that the most successful ones were actually introverts. But perhaps this should not be so surprising. If you look at the leaders that are changing the way the world does business, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Arianna Huffington and Elon Musk – these low-key figureheads and ‘introverted entrepreneurs’ are the antithesis of the more aggressive or flamboyant leaders who perhaps more readily fit our Western stereotypes. Instead, they demonstrate the value of influence over dominance, of substance and strong belief systems over fanfare and showmanship and of the value of inclusiveness and the ability to connect with people. But perhaps the most important thing that this new breed of global leaders has in common, is that they live and breathe the power of being themselves.
Why faking it fails
As polygraph machines show, when we are untrue to ourselves, our bodies betray us. If you’ve ever tried to fake it, you’ll know that pretending to be someone you’re not is physically and mentally exhausting. It’s not sustainable and the cracks will eventually show. And it’s not just you it hurts; an ill-at-ease leader will quickly create an environment of anxiety and uncertainty that can crush creativity. Instead it’s the leaders that are comfortable in their own skin that are best able to foster a culture of openness and trust that is essential for creativity.
Coco Chanel once said, “Hard times arouse an instinctive desire for authenticity”. As the industry grapples with constant flux and its leaders with ever-more complex roles, a clear picture is emerging: whatever your natural personality type, bringing authenticity to your leadership may be critical to your success. By following these guiding principles, you can start to harness the true power of being you, whether you’re an introvert, extravert or even an ambivert.
There’s a reason that thousands of studies have yet to produce a definitive set of characteristics for an ideal leader; it’s because leaders aren’t born leaders. Great leaders emerge from the stories of their lives and from their commitment to understanding how best to apply their unique learning, passion and perspectives in the service of their organisations. The best leaders don’t try and play someone else, they play themselves – brilliantly. As self-awareness is the cornerstone of authenticity, take the time to really understand your strengths and limitations so you can develop practical strategies to powerfully play to the former and mitigate the latter.
As Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George, points out, being an authentic leader comes with responsibility, it’s not an excuse to embrace ‘your inner jerk’ so the best leaders also seek regular, candid feedback from those around them. Remember, getting feedback might not always give you a pat on the back, but it will certainly keep you honest.
Read the full article at Creative Review HERE