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What Do You and Lance Armstrong Have in Common?

January 28, 2013

Lance Armstrong, seven-time Tour de France cycling champion, recently gave an interview with Oprah Winfrey talking about his abuse of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. Since the mid-nineties, he has lied and cheated the system, his fans, and in many ways, himself, to do what he felt he had to do to come out on top. But just like what often happens in life, the truth comes out.

There is no doubt about it, what Lance did was wrong. It is easy to be disgusted with his behaviour and cast him aside. But, I believe there are life lessons all around us and I believe Lance has taught us an important one on Authentic Leadership.

I do a lot of leadership development training and coaching around authentic leadership. It seems to almost be a buzz term right now as it is so popular. And rightly so, authentic leadership is about helping people lead on their own terms in a way that is congruent with their values and strengths.
It is easy to be an authentic leader when things are going well at work. But,we all have challenging days. Sure, we may not take performance-enhancing drugs like Lance did. But I have never met anyone who hasn’t compromised their values at some point in time. Consider the executive who tells a small lie to protect someone on their team or themselves. What about exaggerating a story for added emphasis? It seems like just a small error in judgement but the more individuals start to compromise on integrity, the more they become comfortable in making small indiscretions and a theme can develop. At the end of the day, when a leader doesn’t act in a way that makes her/him proud at all times, even during the tough calls, they’re leading in a way that is not authentic.
In order for you to understand what authentic leadership is for you, it is important to take some time to reflect. Normally, I have my coaching clients and classroom participants do more in-depth exercises, but I want to give you something to get started with here that you can do in 5 minutes.

First, make a list of your top 10 values.

Great, once you have this list complete, put a star beside the top 3 values on your list that resonate with you the most.

Once you have done that. Think of an example for each when you have acted in a way which respected that value at work. Also, think of how that made you feel.

Now, think of an example of how you disrespected each of these values at some point in your life. How did that make you feel?

What commitment can you make to yourself today that will help you to lead more authentically for you?

When you can lead from a place that is in line with who you really are, this makes even the tough decisions feel right. As I mentioned earlier, it feels easy to be an authentic leader during the good times. But it is when the going gets tough that authentic leaders are born. This is when it requires the strength to go within yourself and understand what you are really feeling; listen to your gut instinct; and be brave. Say what needs to be said. Do what needs to be done. You can achieve whatever you want, you just need to find the strength, even in the dark moments, to reach out and grab it. Do what is right, and the rest will fall into line.

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