Chantal: It’s such a pleasure today to be welcoming along our very special guest for today’s interview. Henna, welcome and thank you for joining us today.
Henna: Thank you, Chantal. I’m looking forward to this, to this conversation.
Chantal: Now, I read in your bio something that you said, which was, “I believe our fast-changing world needs each of us to be inspired leaders who make the world better for all.” I absolutely love that quote. I think it’s such a beautiful place to actually start our interview today. I was hoping that you can share with us what the qualities are of an authentic leader.
Henna: Yeah. I’ll start off by talking about my book. It’s called, “Wired for Authenticity.” I wrote it about three years ago. What it documents is my own journey to authenticity and my own challenges with authenticity particularly as a female working in fairly male-dominated environments. In my view, look, I don’t know that there are qualities as such of an authentic leader. I like to think of it as the seven practises of authentic leadership that I talk about in my book. The reason why I call it practises is, because I feel like we, as leaders, are always growing and the world around us is constantly changing. Qualities feels like if you’re either this or you’re not, whereas practises is something that you can always do. You can always practice. You fall off the bandwagon. It’s my exercise routine. I fall off, and then you get back on. That’s all what that is to it, right?
For me, it’s about the practice. It’s not the quality. There’s nothing fixed about it. I can share with you, what are the seven practises. The first practice, and I think you’ll like this one, it’s called befriend your body. That’s one where it’s all really about discovering who you are through your body by being in touch with your five senses and figuring what’s happening in the present moments in your body so that you can respond in a much more agile way to what’s happening. The second practice is called, stay curious. It’s about not having a fixed mindset, but actually being curious about what’s going on around you, what’s going on within you, and learning how you can best serve in that moment where you are versus from a fixed mindset. The third is about letting go. In order for us to really return to our authenticity, we have to let go of all the things that we’re not that we think we should be. There’s a whole list of things that I talk about in my book about some of the practises around letting go.
The fourth practice is about, give yourself an A. An A is not as much as an accolade but really truly accepting yourself. The A stands for acceptance. It’s about accepting and appreciating yourself completely, including your flaws and fully starting from that place and then aspiring to something that you want to create for yourself that it’s part of the values that you have. That’s the fourth one. The fifth one is about choosing be before do. What this is about is, you get to choose in the moment who you want to be operating from everything that you have so that you can be more flexible and agile but at the same time operating from the values and the core and the sense of purpose that you bring. The sixth one is about facing the dragon. It’s about facing your fears and having courage. The seventh one is dance with the dream. This is really about being able to dance with what’s important to you, finding that sense of purpose, finding the ways in which you will be most energised, fulfilled and alive.
Chantal: Henna, I’m sitting here at the moment with a big smile on my face because I feel like there is so much relevance in those seven practises that you just talked about. I’m quite certain that many members of the FBP family are probably feeling the same way as I am at the moment, just being able to relate to so many of those areas. Actually, the first time that you started off with which we have, befriend your body, I thought I actually read something that you sent, which I thought was really interesting and very relevant for the Fitness industry. You said, “Inauthenticity causes stress in our bodies,” which I thought was really interesting because I think in a lot of leadership conversations that I’ve had, traditionally, we talk very much about the business side of leadership, but you obviously have a link between the business and the body in the spiritual side. Can you help us understand that particular one a little bit more?
Henna: Sure. Sure. I think, look, in our western world and particularly in our very fast-changing world in a corporate and business environment, a lot of us can tend to be in our heads, a lot, because it requires analysis. It’s requires thinking. We’re sitting in front of a computer now in front of any device almost 24/7. We’re in this distracted place where we’re always thinking about something either that happened in the past or something that will happen in the future or idea of something or fearing something that might happen. I feel like the best way to lead is actually leading from being fully present in our bodies. I have personally experienced as I have developed through my mindfulness practice greater body awareness. I am much more in-tune with my own emotions, what’s happening with me now, what am I feeling, where am I feeling some tension.
My entire body is able to listen and bring that same sense of awareness of the present moment to any conversation or interaction or conflict that I’m having with another individual. I’m able to be much more present to what’s happening with them in this conversation rather than operate from preconceived notions about what should happen or how they are in terms of a judgement about them. I find that when I do that, oh my God, it is transformative for me, it is transformative for them, and it’s transformative for the relationship. Does any of that make sense?
Chantal: It makes total sense. As you were talking through that, what was in my mind is, as fitness professionals, such a large part of our business are the relationships that we have in such a large part of what we do and what makes a difference in those relationships is how we engage and how we listen to the people within our teams but also our customers within our businesses. I think-
Chantal: Yeah. Henna, let’s bring this back to Wired for Authenticity and those seven practises, overall, that you talk about. Because I know that so many of our listeners are interested to know how they can actually develop as an authentic leader and work on those practises as you talk about. Can you share with us any tips or ways that we can actually build ourselves and do those practises that you talk about to develop ourselves as authentic leaders?
Henna: Well, the first place, of course, is to buy the book and read it.
Chantal: First and foremost. I should just jump in there and say there will be a link in the show notes, everyone and actually jump over to fitnessbusinesspodcast.com. We’ll put a direct link in there for the book.
Henna: The book, I would say, there’s a lot of other resources that come when you get the book or even, actually, if you don’t get the book, there is, if you go onto my website and I’ll ask Chantal if you can just add that link, there is a 52-week one practice a week that you can sign up for under the resources tab on my website. Each week, you’ll get one simple practice that keeps you in practice. The reason why is, it is really about practice. It’s about getting to know yourself in terms of growing your own self-awareness. Self-awareness is really key to any leadership. You start with leading and knowing yourself before you move on to, obviously, as your organisation grows and the people that you work with grows leading others.
There’s 52 weeks of one simple tool a week. I would really recommend that you find a buddy just like you would in exercise buddy or find a community. There’s also a tool where if you want to bring a group of people together and read it, read the book together. There is a discussion guide. What I wanted to do is make available a bunch of tools where people can actually get into the practice.
Chantal: I love that you mentioned that about getting together with a buddy or getting a team together because one of the things that we’ve spoken about on the show today is having a learning piece for your team. Leaders within a fitness business is actually creating a learning practice within their team. I would imagine that using these 52-week tool that you have, they could actually bring that into their weekly team meetings.
Chantal: Together as a team, they can actually work on that and bounce off each other and learn together.
Henna: I think there is incredible power in learning in a community. Both power individually for the individual to be able to learn and when you teach something, you’ll learn so much more. I think there is incredible power to changing the culture of your organisation and of your team when you learn together because you now have a common language and a common practice. There is no other way of bringing a team together than creating a common language and a common practice so that the team, together, gets to know one another better. There’s a lot of ways in which you can share and grow in your self-awareness and be able to get feedback from them but other team members. My personal belief is that, gosh, we spend 12 to 14 hours a day. Many of us at work were connected with our workplace and probably, the biggest endeavour that we take on in our adult lives. If we can’t use our work to self-actualize, what a lost opportunity for us as a human race.
Chantal: Absolutely. Absolutely. Now, Henna, you talk about the importance of understanding our strengths and our [saboteurs 00:11:35]. Can you help us understand a couple of ways that we can actually develop better self-awareness around those areas?
Henna: There’s a couple ways that I would recommend. One that we just talked about, which is, “Hey, practice in your team.” The second is, have mentors and friends who can speak truth to you. In many of our organisations, we can tend to have some formal relationships that preclude speaking truth to one another or people have fear of conflict or want to be liked. Sometimes that precludes us from being most helpful to others, which is to share a truth with both in terms of your strengths as well as your opportunities for development. Asking for feedback is really important. There’s lots of assessments out there. Some of them, actually, I have a whole tab and there’s a free assessment that people can do from my website called the authenticity assessment. There’s lots of assessments out there that people can do to help get to know themselves better.
One of my favourites is the practice of mindfulness. For me, that is amazing because you start to get to a place where you can observe yourself and your impact on others and being able to observe that and notice that without judgement is a beautiful practice to grow your self-awareness.
Chantal: Thank you for sharing those with us, Henna. Now, I know that a lot of work that you do, you do with female leaders. Of course, you’re the organiser for the TEDx Women’s events as well. Can you help us understand how the authenticity challenges are different for female leaders?
Henna: Yes. In the research that I did for the book, there are, definitely, challenges that are different as I spoke with female leaders. First, women leaders who particularly work in highly male-dominated cultures or environments tend to feel like they have to act a certain way in order to be perceived as professional or to be perceived as promotable. That’s one area of challenge is that they try to emulate either a behaviour of their male leaders or other kinds of behaviour. That’s the first challenge. I think the second challenge, and this is a really thin line that women often need to walk is that the perceptions of what a good leader is are often very different from the perception of and expectations of what women must do. A good leader is somebody who takes initiative in western definitions, right?
Chantal: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Henna: It takes initiative or a good leader is somebody who is strategic or assertive or decisive. The challenge is, when women often act in those ways, those qualities can tend to undermine the expectation that we have of women which is collaborative and nurturing and softer. Women have to really walk this thin line that is right in the middle where they have to be both collaborative but they also have to be assertive in order to be perceived as a leader. Does that make sense?
Chantal: It does. It sounds quite challenging. I would love, if you could, to share with us, perhaps, an example of it might be a female leader in the public eye that we could recognise or someone that you have worked with over the years. An example of a female leader who has been able to successfully find that balance that you’re talking about.
Henna: Yeah. That’s a great, great question. I think, look, definitely in the public eye there is the example of Margaret Thatcher, right …
Chantal: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Henna: … who is often perceived as very male in the way that she showed up and was often very criticised for that. She eared on the side of being very outspoken, very assertive but foreseen as very aggressive. I think that there are other leaders that are … The author of Lean In, for instance, is somebody who I think is incredibly powerful. I think, also, has the ability to both be obviously very effective in what she does. This is Sheryl Sandberg I’m talking about.
Chantal: Yeah. I was just Googling when you said that.
Henna: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sheryl Sandberg has done the whole Lean In Movement. I feel like she does a good job of balancing, being very assertive in the sense of having an impact but also not losing for femininity. I think the way that women are able to do that successfully and when women are able to do that successfully, they’re actually able to be very powerful. In the case of Sheryl Sandberg, obviously, she is seen as one of the most powerful women and has made an incredible impact.
Chantal: I think this is such an interesting area and if we had longer, we would dive into a little bit more, but I think it also gives us a perfect segue to chat about the IHRSA Women’s Leadership Summit. Because for any of our listeners that don’t already know, Henna is actually the keynote speaker for the IHRSA Women’s Leadership Summit that is happening at the Athletic Business Show this November. Henna, do you want to just give us a brief overview about the keynote topic that you’re going to be focusing on?
Henna: Yes. I will be talking about the power of purpose and finding a way to be purposeful in the workplace. More and more meaning and purpose are key drivers of the employee experience in the workplace and also, a key driver of well-being in the workplace. I will be talking about and in fact, will take us to an exercise around discovering your sense of purpose and finding it in the way that you work.
Chantal: That is wonderful. Well, I’m really looking forward to the IHRSA Women’s Leadership Summit, Henna, and hearing you speak.
Henna: I am too.
Chantal: It’s going to be fabulous. We’ve got an amazing group of women coming along and for anyone that would like more information on that. Of course, I will put a direct link in today’s show notes that you can check out everything that’s happening. As I said, Henna is going to be starting of the day with her keynote which is going to be phenomenal. I cannot wait for that. Look, we have covered a broad range of topics for today. I just want to remind everyone that I will put the link for Henna’s book, Wired for Authenticity in today’s show notes along with your website link. Are there any last messages that you’d like to leave with our listeners today, Henna?
Henna: Well, I would love to see everybody at the Women’s Leadership Conference. I wish everybody tremendously fulfilling and purposeful week ahead. I hope to connect with you either at the conference or please connect with me on LinkedIn or through my website. I’d love to hear any questions you have. If you want to send me some advanced questions, that would be amazing. I’d love to hear and make sure that I can really frame up my talk in a way that is really useful for the people that will be there.
Chantal: That is amazing. Well, Henna, I want to thank you so much for being incredibly generous with your time and for joining us today and for talking us through those seven practises. Once again, thank you very, very much for being a guest on the Fitness Business podcast.
Henna: Oh, absolutely, Chantal. It was a pleasure connecting with you. I look forward to meeting you.
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