Authentic leadership and expressive arts therapy

Authenticity begins with self-awareness and personal growth, which need a deeper understanding of one's personality, needs, motivations, and goals

In my leadership development workshops, I would often quote lines from a popular poem – “Person in the Glass” by American composer and writer, Peter Dale Wimbrow. These lines were as follows:

“You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years And get pats on the back as you pass

But your final reward will be heartache and tears

If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.!”

Drawing a parallel to the context of leadership, one may infer that even though one may receive all performance rewards, and reach senior leadership roles, one would experience setbacks and not be able to carve a fulfilling path if one does not stay true to one’s authentic self writes Mishti Verma, Therapist, Gallup Coach &  Founder-Inner Katha Interventions.

The first step of authenticity is allowing oneself to invest in self-awareness and personal development. This would entail an understanding of deeper aspects of one’s personality, needs, motivations, and purpose.

One useful process to do that is self-discovery using processes of expressive arts therapy. Expressive arts therapy is a deeply insightful multimodal approach. Expressive arts therapy may incorporate varied creative art forms and helps to explore deeper responses, insights, reflections, and resolutions through encounters with art processes.

As a part of the expressive arts therapy process, one uses metaphors as the language of self-expression. Metaphors tap directly into the subconscious and can bring to life different aspects of one’s personality, these could also be hidden aspects beyond the perceived leadership qualities.

For example, the sun as a metaphor could represent qualities of energy, we often have heard the statement that this person is like the “sun, brightens up my day, energizes me’’! However, the sun could have other qualities of giving light, and hope, such as a motivating leader.

A leader will be able to recognize and bring out deeper aspects of the personality beyond social perceptions. For example, if one is perceived largely as a strict taskmaster, during the metaphor process one may discover that one has other personality traits such as a fun-loving friend, that one has not often demonstrated through behavior and action. This would help build more authentic connections with self and others.

Expressive arts therapy also helps one recognize deeper feelings and enhance emotional literacy. This helps us own our feelings and build more practices for emotional regulation, enhancing harmony, authenticity, and stronger social bonds at the workplace.

Vulnerability, and authenticity is the new mantra for building more leadership influence, it’s time to break the walls!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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