What I learned from the Authenticity Project and how it helped me grow into a Strong Leader

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are” – Brené Brown

The Authenticity Project is a leadership program developed by women at my company to encourage other women to use their core authentic skills and “best self” practices to become strong leaders.

Over the last few years, I would routinely scour my company’s home page for any and every opportunity that would put me closer to a career where I could truly thrive using my best skills. I desperately wanted to use my English degree from Claflin University to make a career out of writing and communication.

Then one day I saw an article for the Authenticity Project, a short article with a name to email to join. The words authenticity- leadership- women got my attention. With a few clicks of the keyboard, my email was out.

Later an email came to me, welcome to the program this is a 10-month commitment with biweekly meetings 1hr and 30 minutes. I made a commitment to my manager to work extra hours to attend the program. During this time period, I worked harder than I had ever had.

In the Authenticity Project, the first task was to take a personality test to identify our strongest skills. That assignment set to tone, for those of us in that first Columbia class to start the work of confidence to leverage our strengths to be stronger leaders and better humans by enriching our personal and professional lives.

One of the best things about the program, it was unconventional, impactful, educational and unique to the lives of women. We began most sessions by taking a yoga breath, planting our feet, releasing the tensions and worries of the day, making an effort to be present at the moment, fully engaged in the content. The sessions were filled with everything from movement to journaling, art activity, and peer group discussions. Each session created a space for open and honest dialogue. And yet each session was also very intentional about time, making sure to cover everything on the agenda in a timely manner.

We learned to dismantle myths that prevent women from living full authentic lives. Things like the curse of the good girl. We learned the difference in what it meant to be in or out of the arena, to make a conscious effort to bring my best self to the day and to be mindful that others also deal with the same issues. We gained the courage to have tough conversations about the things that matter. We learned the positivity ratio and shifted our mindsets from scarcity and doubt to abundance and growth. This was an amazing opportunity, this project helped me to step into my power, take up courage and lead the life I want to live.

In February I planned 4 Black History events as Co-Campus Lead for our Employee Resource Group on Race and Ethnicity. The events I planned were also replicated in our 4 other campus locations. It was a lot of hard work and took a great team of people behind me to plan events that were educational, impactful and made our community proud in showing that our company cares about celebrating a diversity of culture, thought and ideas.

As the excitement of Black History began to die down, I was informed that I was selected to be part of the ERG’s pilot mentor program and my mentor would be none other than the CEO of the company. To say that I was astounded was an understatement. I now had an audience with the leader of the company and I was determined to make the most out of this amazing opportunity.

After 5 years at my company, I have grown so much professionally and personally. I have become more confident in how I move, speaking up more in meetings, sharing my ideas with business partners and becoming a subject matter expert in the type of work that I do for my company. I have become a role model for others sharing my knowledge and encouragement to others looking to grow in their careers. I am so grateful to those special people I met along my journey that have supported, encouraged or simply provided me with a listening ear. Now is my time to shine by stepping into my power, walking in my truth and owning my career.

“And the day came where the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was even more painful than the risk it took to bloom.”

13 thoughts on “What I learned from the Authenticity Project and how it helped me grow into a Strong Leader”

  1. Jessica,
    I’m so proud of you and this work. Reading your blog, I have the BIGGEST smile… a smile for you, your courage, your gift of writing and your authentic spirit. Well done.

  2. Great article, I’m so happy that Unum/Colonial Life offers these outlets for women. Great writing Jess!

  3. Jessica –

    This is beautiful!! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. You have many gifts, my friend and I’m really looking forward to watching you continue to bloom!

    All the best,
    Donna 🙂

  4. Jessica,

    Great article! I love it! It has been so great to watch you grow from Day 1 in New Hire Training class to now. You are so smart, poised and your enthusiasm for more definitely radiates each time we talk. I’m so happy for what God is doing in your life, both personal & business. Keep making AWESOME moves!

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