Can you 'manage' Authenticity?
Reading Irails post made me think about what did I understand by ‘authenticity’ ? and was it something innate or something that could be developed? And how authentic was I as a leader?
At a high level I suppose I understood authenticity to be about being honest and true to ones own values and beliefs, but in reality I think this was a little bit simplistic – in my experience many of us work in complex, politically orientated workplaces where complete honesty and openness are not often possible, practical or effective. So how do we strike a balance between our authenticity and our environments or the work culture we find ourselves in?
Could managing ones authenticity be an answer?
While on the surface this approach intuitively sounds wrong, it is exactly this approach that many, including Rob Goffee and Garetth Jones, advocate in order to develop as an authentic leader. This approach does not mean being manipulative or insincere in any way, but simply being able to present different faces to different audiences without losing sight of who you are – this role playing is not fake, but simply presenting different facets of yourself at different times i.e. is your audience made up of clients or colleagues? We need to be authentic with both, but will usually adopt slightly different personas with each.
So if we believe authenticity can be managed, is it something that we can work on and improve? I believe the answer to be a most definite yes,
Irail says that authentic leaders must be ‘consistent in their message’ and I think this is the key – you have to ensure that your actions are consistent with your words or else no one will ever perceive you as authentic. This last bit is often overlooked i.e. you can’t really be authentic on your own – authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you.
Finding common ground with those who you are trying to lead or influence is another way to establish your authenticity. Be comfortable with where you come from and use your background to build a rapport with others and be genuinely curious about other people’s histories.
Authentic leadership is also associated with the promotion of positive psychological states such as confidence, optimism and hope, so you need to work on removing barriers between yourself and others and also try to give people feedback that acknowledges their own values and beliefs i.e. what is unique about them.
Anyway, what do people think? Is managing one’s own authenticity a contradiction? Or perhaps a mechanism to help you grow and develop as a leader?