Lauri Reishus on Authentic Leadership

In late July, the National Diversity Council held the 2018 Women in Leadership Symposium entitled, “Women Blazing Trails,” in Washington, D.C. At the event, attendees heard six different perspectives from a diverse mix of executives who have made the climb throughout their careers to reach executive and presidential levels within their respective companies. ARC’s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Lauri Reishus, spoke on the topic of “Becoming an Authentic Leader.” By sharing her career experiences and insights, Reishus outlined the three key phases she’s found applicable in her path to executive leadership.

Phase one of becoming an authentic leader is to develop self-awareness and a willingness to reach beyond your comfort zone. Many professionals, especially women, find themselves questioning their skills: “Do I feel comfortable in this role?” “Am I qualified for this role?” Reishus cited a study that found women in the workplace will “edit themselves out” of a role by not applying for a job if they do not meet 100% of the qualifications; meanwhile, men will apply for a job when only identifying with 60% of the job qualifications. Reishus encouraged attendees to stop second-guessing career opportunities, and to “shift that mindset” and ask themselves why they don’t feel qualified. She stressed the importance of building a strong network, identifying growth opportunities, and delivering quality work to overcome mental barriers of self-doubt and advance your career.

The second phase of authentic leadership is mastery. Reishus stated that once you have been in your role for a while, feel you have a mastery of it and delivering at a high level, it is important to “make sure the organization understands your contribution.” Whether that be from building a strong network who will help communicate the good work you’ve accomplished or tooting your own horn once in a while, it is critical to ensure people are aware of your contributions.

The third phase is executive presence. Reishus reiterated that leadership and executive presence aren’t just for executives. An executive presence is “how you are showing up, consciously and unconsciously.” Reishus emphasized that all kinds of workplace interactions —whether a board meeting, a project or a team huddle — provide an opportunity to make a strong impression. “Give time and attention to how you’re engaging, what those conversations look like, and how you’re showing up.” She added that authentic leadership is about bringing genuine emotion, energy and thoughtfulness to your work contributions and professional relationships.

Reishus also addressed some of the challenges women face in leadership. “The whole world is socialized to think leadership and ‘an executive’ looks and feels male. We know that consciously not to be true, but there’s an unconscious message,” she said. “Someday I hope that we really don’t have that at all, but we still do.” Reishus noted that many women, including herself, receive a wide range of coaching and advice on how to dress, how to look, and how to speak. “I’ve gotten coaching that I’ve ignored,” she laughed. “You have to think about what will work best for you.”

Reishus encourages women in leadership to prioritize authenticity and remain true to their own leadership styles. “This is an ongoing journey,” she concluded. “It’s definitely an ongoing, never-ending quest for authenticity and confidence, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great ride.”