In honor of the 2021 Summer Olympics ending in Tokyo. Each time I see swimming, it immediately takes me back to when I was a competitive swimmer. Swimming embraced my uber-competitive spirit and the drive to push myself to be the best!
When I was swimming, the water was clear, the lane dividers were in place, and I could feel the water breaking over my head while each arm stroke would stay in rhythm with my kicks. My heart kept beating to my arm strokes and at just the right moment, I took a breath. There is something to be said about repetition in a swim lane, hearing that faint whistle from my coach, and keeping my thoughts moving in my head. My eyes would be fixated on my surroundings, the girls I was competing with, and the black line at the bottom of the pool, pushing me to reach the finish first. Swimming demanded all sides of me: the physical and the mental. My body’s strength and mind’s power; my body’s persistence, my brain’s resilience. As a competitive swimmer, I used all of myself, all of who I am to bring out the best of me. I used my whole self to perform at my best.
And that is what we strive to do in leadership. I am talking about using all sides of who you are to perform at your best; I am talking about your Authentic Leadership Legacy. Authentic Leadership Legacy is the “Olympic Gold” for leaders. It’s when we bring the best version of ourselves to our role as a leader. To make it easy to remember, I created an acronym for Authentic Leadership Legacy; think of it as bringing “A.L.L.” of who you are into your role. There is one thing to know: Authentic Leadership Legacy demands the real you. The Authentic You! You must show up as your whole self with a leadership mindset and be courageous enough to develop all your talents! Both your soft skills and your hard skills, your greatest resume achievements, and the more hidden qualities you might show during the day. Our authenticity is the best of us.
And legacy? Legacy is the mark we leave in this world; it is how we are remembered.
Legacy is the difference we’ve made in other people’s lives, in our company’s history, and the impact we make on our team. Therefore, Authentic Leadership Legacy is what you become every day as a leader — good or bad.
Let’s get back in the pool for a moment. When I was swimming competitively, I naturally felt the rhythm in my strokes and heard the chatter in my mind with songs that I created to the steady beat of my heart. I titled a few of them: “Keep Pushing, Paula” and the never-ending pulsating title, “Go, I Am Almost There.” Then that race was over and immediately I looked up to see my time and the results. It was in that moment that I judged my success or failure and then it was onto the next race. What I didn’t realize at the time was how those made-up songs and final judgments would keep playing years later. They were on repeat and I couldn’t turn them off. Yet, I wasn’t swimming in the pool anymore; I was leading a sales team. “Go, I Am Almost There” became “Go, We Are Almost There” and before I knew it, each month became my never-ending race to judge our success or failure. In business, we are at the mercy of the race, the calendar, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals. I put that pressure, that “song”, on an endless loop and onto the team without knowing it. I was focused on ensuring we hit our numbers, grew our revenue 10x, doubled down on expectations, and brought only my uber-competitive nature to my job.
That was not the story I wanted to write like a leader and that was not who I was as a person. Was I afraid to bring ALL OF ME or did I simply not know how to bring ALL OF ME? I realized as I asked this question, that I needed to create a path to who I really was as a leader – ALL OF ME – and that path led me to reconnect with my Authentic Leadership Legacy. It’s a path you hear every day: Music.
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