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Two separate conversations, same week.

Each chat is with a CEO who talks to me about a person that reports to him. I have been working with each of these reports.

As we talk, it is evident that each CEO desires the exact same thing for his charge.

I want him to be more authentic.

Let me translate.

I want him to be less polite, less cautious, play it less safe. I want to hear what he really thinks.

During the same week, I hear two other CEOs address a group of senior stakeholders. I experience both of them as authentic.

They’re not slick. They avoid platitudes. When they speak I believe what they’re saying.

A good thing.

One, however, is significantly more impactful than the other. He is what I call “authentic on steroids.”

He is authentic AND he creates meaning.

Meaning-making is the seemingly invisible and exponentially impactful part of a leader’s job.

I don’t just speak my truth (the authentic part). I speak it, and I take you on a mental and emotional journey that richly resonates with you (yes, meaning).

  • Meaning is invoked when I use a metaphor or tell a story. A fresh metaphor, a story well told grabs us deep down in our hearts, where we care. 
  • Meaning is invoked when I ask brilliant questions. Questions that connect us to our fire, our passion. 
  • Meaning is invoked when I take a conversation into universal longing. The longing to commit, the longing for community, the longing to thrive, the longing to help, the longing to be great. 
  • Meaning is invoked when I use the much-abused language of leadership (respect, loyalty, trust, service, team work) and get real about what the heck I actually mean when I utter these words. As I clarify how I use these words, new meaning is revealed. 
  • Meaning is invoked whenever I refer to purpose. Real purpose. Palpable purpose. Shared purpose. Not mission-statement-purpose. Not sounds-good-cliché purpose. No, deep-down human purpose.

Authentic is nice. A lot of babble can be very authentic. Authentic on steroids, however, is always more than nice. It is authentic talk seasoned with a heavy dose of meaning.

Wanna be an exceptional leader?

Start with authentic. Reach beyond nice. Add meaning.

Often.

Because the meaning steroids are good for you AND everyone else.