Authenticity: The Key to Confidence and Thought Leadership

By allowing young professionals to be their authentic selves and welcoming their perspectives, associations will create a culture of trust that allows both organizations and staff to thrive.

Many young professionals who are falling into roles at associations bring considerable diversity and experience from their educational and professional backgrounds. However, many have not prepared for a career in associations because it is not discussed at colleges and universities. So, for many young professionals like myself, it has been an unexpected journey into associations that has not only offered great surprise and opportunity but also called into question how to find confidence and gain a professional stride in a new space.

Those young professionals who can define their authentic selves bring passion into their work and are able to innovate and be thought leaders for their organizations.

It can be a lot like the first day at a new school with the lingering question of, “Will I fit in?” The road to professional confidence is a shared effort between the professional and the organization. Professional confidence is firmly rooted in the faith professionals have in themselves and knowing their boss and organization believe in and trust them.

At this year’s ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition, Luvvie Ajayi, executive director of The Red Pump Project and blogger for AwesomelyLuvvie.com, spoke about how she gained confidence and success by being herself and doing what came natural. In her case, that was writing. She encouraged attendees to remember three things:

  1. Be authentic
  2. Be hardworking
  3. Be willing to grow

Some of these concepts are obvious: work hard and grow. However, in practice, it can be a struggle to be authentic. Being authentic can mean so many things, but it is rooted in being able to bring your whole self to work. It unlocks great potential for all parties involved because it validates the professional and the organization reaps the benefits of an empowered person. However, most people are uncomfortable disrupting the status quo, particularly if their authentic self is different than their organization.

There are times when we cannot begin to articulate the details of tomorrow, no less capture the intricate details of ourselves. It is at times easier to fall in line and not stand up and stand out. We cannot all be like Luvvie, who was able to write a 10-year, forward-looking vision statement that described where her nonprofit would be, where she would be as a writer, and how she would be working for herself and achieve it all in five years.

However, because she was authentic in her dreams and abilities, she could obtain a better future sooner than she had dreamed. As many of us navigate this space, we must be bold. Those young professionals who can define their authentic selves bring passion into their work and are able to innovate and be thought leaders for their organizations. This passion cannot go without nurturing. This is where office culture makes the difference; it evolves based on the people within it.

Organizations must encourage authenticity. Now, this does not mean throwing the code of conduct or dress code out the window. It does mean encouraging outside-of-the-box personalities and ideas. It does mean creating an environment that encourages different perspectives. It does mean building a place of trust that allows new and novel ideas to be shared.

To encourage this exchange of ideas, invite young professionals to the table, solicit their ideas, and shepherd them into leadership. Creating this dynamic builds confidence in young professionals and incentivizes being authentic. It has a direct impact on changes within the organization.

Often, Millennials and Gen Z are seen as technological or social media experts. However, these skills are just launching pads. Young professionals are the future of every organization and offer insights on the future of your membership. Moving the conversation beyond these topics creates richer opportunities for growth, particularly when young professionals lead projects. That’s why it’s important to move focus away from trying to fit in to how they can help move the organization forward.

Confidence and authenticity are moving targets. They evolve as organizations and people mature. It is a continual process of growth for both organization and professional that pushes both towards innovation and thought leadership. How are you being authentic and encouraging confidence at your organization?

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Alexis Redmond

By Alexis Redmond

Alexis Redmond, MA, JD, is manager of mailing list sales at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in Maryland. MORE

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