The truth? The truth is that I struggled to write this blog.
As an attorney, an enormous part of my job is writing. I’m expected to write persuasively with well thought out and well-reasoned arguments. In my particular practice, education is a focal point. I speak regularly to clients, at chapter events, and at conferences. Outside of my practice, I volunteer in various leadership roles. This blog should have been a breeze. Yet, I struggled.
I struggled because I wanted to impart some earth shattering, groundbreaking, never-before-seen-or-heard-of knowledge. I wanted you, dear reader, to be awestruck. I wanted you to finish the last word, pick your jaw up off the floor, and whisper “wow” as you struggled to focus on anything else for the day. But why? Sure, lawyers have egos and I suppose I’m not that much different. But that wasn’t the real reason. The real reason is that you matter and you’re important and I wanted to be an invaluable resource.
So, I struggled.
As I stared at the blank Word document on my computer screen and the blinking cursor for what seemed like an eternity, it finally occurred to me that this wasn’t me. I don’t have to be the next John Maxwell or Brene Brown. I just have to be Dustin Paschal…and that’s good enough.
Far too often, we try to be something we’re not; and the countless self-help and leadership books don’t help. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a voracious reader…particularly of leadership-style books. I believe they are an invaluable resource; but we must remember that the books are meant to be a guide – something to help us on our individual journey and with our individual growth. When we try to emulate the principles and concepts outlined in these books to the point that we essentially become a carbon copy, we most certainly fail. You are not John Maxwell. You are not Brene Brown. But it is admirable and worthy to aspire to be like them.
As a young lawyer in my first real job, I thought that to be a good lawyer, I needed to be just like my boss. My boss was a Black man from Ohio that had gone to Duke University and Duke University School of Law. He had worked in a major regional law firm to which he had been recruited straight out of law school. He was the son of divorced parents, one of whom was a mental health professional. I was a white man from Texas that had done to Baylor University and Baylor University School of Law. My first job was working at a 1-man law firm, and I struggled to find a job out of law school. I was the son of happily married parents, one an office administrator and one a firefighter. Our commonality was the law, but our lives and backgrounds were vastly different. As I stepped into courtrooms and stood before crowds at conferences, I failed every time I tried to copy the style, mannerisms, and cadence my boss utilized. I failed when I mimicked his preparation. In short, I failed because I wasn’t myself.
The instant I decided to let go of the “right way” to be a lawyer and decided to be the lawyer that was right for me, I began to excel. The fears and the anxieties melted away when the comfort of being authentic took over. Juries and audiences began to respond favorably. My authentic self was much more casual; my boss was much more formal. My authentic self involved phrases, terminology, and quips I had heard over a lifetime of growing up in Texas; my boss had no idea what most of those expressions meant. My authentic self involved leading with my heart and becoming personally invested (right or wrong) in most of my cases; my boss maintained a professional distance. My style wasn’t right for my boss and his style wasn’t right for me. Yet, both styles worked.
Authenticity is everything – not only for your personal success but also for your success as a leader.
Authenticity breeds trust.
Authenticity breeds passion.
Authenticity breeds loyalty.
Authenticity breeds success.
I challenge you in everything you do and in every place you lead…be authentic.
Written by Dustin A. Paschal