I’m not particularly knowledgeable about wine, and drink little of it. However, I do love a glass of good white wine with a meal and have come to appreciate the “unoaked” (also called unwooded or naked) varieties of Chardonnay. Because the wine is stored in stainless steel vessels instead of oak barrels, it doesn’t carry the heavier flavor of the oak into the wine. Thus the subtle flavors of the grapes come through in the unoaked wine without being overpowered by the heavier oak flavor.
I might say that unoaked wine is more genuine, allowing the true nature of the grape to be experienced. Similarly, I hope that you are allowing your own true nature to shine through in a way that others can experience you as you are without heavy overtones of behaviors that don’t match up with who you are.
Your true nature can only be experienced and intentionally expressed (or intentionally withheld) when you know yourself. Getting to know yourself is not a selfish act (as I once believed) but rather a doorway to being at your best as a human being so you that you can be at your best as a leader. You are a complex person, so plan to spend a lifetime on your discoveries. Be prepared to experience lots of emotion as you “unoak” yourself.
You’ll find your true nature:
- Exhilarating as you continually find out new strengths and ways to lead with your gifts. A recent conversation with a leader uncovered her strength with one-to-one conversations. But she didn’t feel quite as comfortable in group settings, a required activity for a new, more impactful position. She discovered great joy in learning that she could transfer her skills and abilities in one-on-one conversations to a group setting (i.e. she didn’t always have to be the one to stand in front of a group and talk. She could invite them into conversation, using her true gifts).
- Frightening as you discover your dark side. I personally avoided looking at my dark side for a long time, believing that it wasn’t necessary to know about that part of me that was less than ideal. With time, I’ve come to embrace the dark along with the light. I’ve found that this is completely necessary so that I can come to recognize when I’ve offended or hurt someone – and to be more intentional about not allowing this to happen in the future. Thus, I’m more effective as a leader when I know what I need to watch out for about myself.
- Frustrating when long-held behaviors (and sometimes the beliefs behind the behavior) that you know you need to change surface over and over again. No, it isn’t Ground Hog Day, it’s just the way your brain works until you become more present to the behaviors and you intentionally work to change them. Eventually the new behaviors will surface, with dedication, time, and patience.
- Humbling as you discover that you’re human after all; you share your journey with every other human who chooses to be purposeful to discovering their true selves. This isn’t touch-feely stuff. It’s the same stuff the best leaders go through in order to become better.
Gandhi wasn’t Gandhi without working to learn about himself and putting what he learned to use. Neither were Aung San Suu Kyi, Abraham Lincoln or Margaret Thatcher. They all got to know themselves as “unoaked” and used that knowledge to allow their best selves to shine through to get better at leading others. You should too.