There is a lot of talk today about people wanting to be authentic but the truth is that not many people actually walk the walk because it really isn’t easy being real. It’s much more comfortable to pretend, put up false fronts to please ourselves or others, or to ignore the injustices that happen right in front of us, even in our own families or workplaces. That’s why it is always powerful to meet a person or teacher who is trying to follow the path to authenticity and is willing to help point the way.
One of those teachers who is on his own road to authenticity is David Irvine. He is a successful family therapist, consultant, professional speaker, facilitator and executive coach with over 20 years experience in studying leadership. His search for leadership models has led him to work with management gurus and successful business leaders as well as spiritual guides and writers like Gary Zukov, the author of “The Seat of the Soul”, and renaissance philosopher Marsilo Ficino.
In addition to his own experience David Irvine was also heavily influenced by two very interesting books that described successful journeys to authenticity. They were “Becoming Human” by Jean Vanier and the children’s classic, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. Jean Vanier, founded L’Arche in 1964, a community for people with intellectual disabilities and through this process underwent a journey to human maturity, a journey of bringing “our heads and our hearts together”. The Velveteen Rabbit is also the story of a journey, the journey of a toy stuffed rabbit who wants to become real. He is guided by a mentor, another stuffed animal called a Skin Horse who tells him that being real may hurt sometimes but it’s always worth it. And that we can only become real if we really believe in ourselves.
In his book “Becoming Real: Journey To Authenticity” he lays out an easy to follow plan for anyone who wants to become authentic and a great leader of their own. He believes that authentic leadership is a personal journey and that we are all born authentic with a destiny to fulfill to be our authentic self but we model and twist ourselves into something else to meet society’s demands. He defines the four components of authentic alignment as: Vision, Passion, Gifts and Contribution.
Irvine describes vision simply and succinctly as the reason that you get out of the bed in the morning. He encourages you to find what really turns you on and makes you eager to face the day. Perhaps most importantly why do you feel called to do in this work and in this life and how does your pay check link to your higher purpose?
He describes passion as anything that brings you what “deep satisfaction”. Something that when you are doing it; you lose all track of time. He offers this great quote by Gary Zukov as a guide: “When the deepest part of you becomes engaged in what you are doing … when what you do serves both yourself and others, when you do not tire on the inside … but seek the sweet satisfaction of your life and your work. What then? Then you know you are doing what you are meant to be doing.”
We all have special, unique talents that we were given that no one else has. Things that we do very well but cannot even remember learning them. Some of our gifts may seem “so ordinary” that we can’t imagine why anybody would want to pay that much attention to them. But maybe this ordinariness is the source of our calling, maybe the most important gifts that we bring to the world that might just lead us to our true path and another level of authenticity.
In Irvine’s view there are two kinds of people in the world: those who help, and those who hinder; those who give and those who take; those who lift, and those who lean; those who contribute, and those who consume. The question for us is which kind of person will we decide to be? Whenever we offer encouragement, support, or awaken hope in others we receive many more gifts in return, including increased self-respect, worth, and even better health.
According to David Irvine once we rediscover our vision, passion, and gifts then we are ready to make our contribution. We will also be on the path to authenticity and true leadership. Our own personal journey that will reveal the nature of our unique genius, help us stop trying to conform to other people’s models and expectations, and allow our natural channels to open.
Mike Martin is a freelance writer and consultant specializing in workplace wellness and conflict resolution. He is the author of “Change the Things You Can” (Dealing with Difficult People). For more information about Mike please visit: