While visiting the “Crossroads of America” this past October for PRSSA National Conference 2016, I had the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Indianapolis and attend a multitude of enriching sessions and keynote addresses by some amazing individuals. However, there was one speaker in particular that stood out among the rest in my mind and truly enlightened me with his moving story and inspiring message.
David Grossman was living the American dream. He received a good education, graduated summa cum laude from his university, and went on to get a master’s degree in Corporate Public Relations. He found a nice girl to marry. He had a good job that paid well and a nice home in the suburbs with a picket fence. Life was good for David Grossman. Then one day, he found himself on a therapist’s couch with a pillow hugged against his chest as he came to accept his true identity as a gay man.
David Grossman made the bold decision to pursue the “difficult” road over the “supposed to” path in life as a result of this life-changing discovery of his true self. After asking some hard questions and facing reality, he came to the realization that he valued being authentic more than pretending to be someone he is not and leading a false life. Now the founder and CEO of his own company, a communications consultancy called The Grossman Group, David Grossman translated this value for authenticity from his personal experiences to his career and interaction with others, leading to what he calls respectful authenticity, “a component of one’s self that you can extenuate to be even better.”
Attending David Grossman’s session “The Courage To Be Authentic” was one of the best decisions I made at the conference and left me inspired with a newfound zeal to conquer each day ahead of me, seize opportunities, and follow my aspirations. His experience and story really resonated with me and gave me a great deal of respect for his integrity in the face of difficulty and uncertainty. Grossman was such an engaging and captivating speaker and really hit home by building his story around such a personal experience that he so graciously shared with everyone in the room.
While Grossman’s session focused on being an effective, authentic leader and bringing out the best in others in a work/business context, he discussed something that I feel most people usually put on the back burner when it comes to pursuing a career: being your best self and sticking to your values. This involves first asking yourself some important questions and discovering what those values are. Grossman also made an important point about how your life and career can’t and shouldn’t be just about making money and paying the bills. Do something that fulfills you and makes you motivated to make a difference. That is when your best self will truly stand out.
When it comes to being an effective leader, both in life and in the workplace, authenticity matters. According to Grossman, authenticity has three components: knowing yourself, being your best self, and quiet courage, the voice of confidence and bravery that comes from deep within. Grossman told the audience that we have all the courage we need inside of us already; it’s just a matter of us knowing when and how to use it. Quiet courage derives from the core of authenticity: truth. The respectful authenticity of which he speaks involves being truthful in a kind and respectful way while still remaining true to one’s values and self.
I think everyone can take something away from Grossman’s message and the concept of respectful authenticity. Everyone benefits from authentic and courageous leadership and communication - the company, employees, business partners, and shareholders. However, these qualities can also help one pave their path in life and lead a more fulfilling, meaningful career.
To embark on this journey of becoming an authentic leader, Grossman encouraged a continuous curiosity about others, our surroundings, and ourselves. Asking questions and reflecting on the things that pique your interest should not be overlooked or avoided. Embracing imperfections and accepting who you are is another important component. By owning your flaws, you surrender the control they have over you. Focus on what you can control and channel your energy towards those things. Lastly, when life becomes too overwhelming and out of control, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. It’s all about keeping things in perspective and realizing that not every brush stroke has to be perfect to create a masterpiece.
While it is difficult to accurately convey the power and emotion behind David Grossman’s speech and presentation, I believe his message is applicable to anyone and everyone. Being an effective and authentic leader starts from within and has the potential to radiate positive effects onto others. Practicing respectful authenticity is something that everyone can do and can make a world of a difference in both one’s personal life and professional career.