Tweak Your Biz » Management » Can you 'manage' Authenticity?

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?



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The Author:

Senior Manager with Pinnacle Project Partners and over the last 15 years have worked as a Project / Programme Manager, primarily within the Financial Services Sector here in Ireland, but also with clients in the UK, Holland, the US and New Zealand. I have worked on a number of significant large scale projects – ranging from process improvement & automation initiatives, to more traditional solution design & implementation projects. PMP™ certified and holder of a MBA (First Class Honours) from UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School. Looking for outlet to share idea's / thoughts - particularly in the leadership space – and continue learning!

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  • nialldevitt

    Hi Kelvin,”you can’t really be authentic on your own – authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you” A KEY point!”in my experience many of us work in complex, politically orientated workplaces where complete honesty and openness are not often possible, practical or effective”I am not sure that I completely agree – why not and who says so? If you are not completely honest, well then you are what? …..honest most of the time?….. honest with 80% of the details?…….. are you really honest?……….Are you really authentic?Surely we all have a duty of honestly? the skill is how we communicate it?It is my opinion that we completely underestimate the ability to others to smell/spot dishonestly. Many leaders (so-called) can take honestly so long as it's complimentary. The bigger test of leadership is criticism and how we respond!! Real leaders can criticise and be criticised without feeling diminished as a leader or a person. Provocative post, I like it!Niall

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Hi Kelvin,

    “you can’t really be authentic on your own – authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you” A KEY point!

    “in my experience many of us work in complex, politically orientated workplaces where complete honesty and openness are not often possible, practical or effective”

    I am not sure that I completely agree – why not and who says so?

    If you are not completely honest, well then you are what? …..honest most of the time?….. honest with 80% of the details?…….. are you really honest?……….Are you really authentic?
    Surely we all have a duty of honestly? the skill is how we communicate it?

    It is my opinion that we completely underestimate the ability to others to smell/spot dishonestly.
    Many leaders (so-called) can take honestly so long as it’s complimentary. The bigger test of leadership is criticism and how we respond!! Real leaders can (effectively) criticise and be criticised without feeling diminished as a leader or a person.

    Provocative post, I like it!
    Niall

  • padraigmckeon

    Authentic is being true to yourself, even if that is not being terribly empahtic with others. Authentic is not about being consistent with the message. Someone could change their mind or theri message every day and still be authentic. Also being authentic and being empathetic are not one and the same. IMO the day when one could 'put up a show' are gone. The power of the individual to publish, without being identified if they wish means that anyone who acts 'street angel house devil' will be caught out in time. Those that can 'manage' their authenticity will be the exceptions that prove the rule.

  • Anonymous

    Authentic is being true to yourself, even if that is not being terribly empahtic with others. Authentic is not about being consistent with the message. Someone could change their mind or theri message every day and still be authentic. Also being authentic and being empathetic are not one and the same. IMO the day when one could ‘put up a show’ are gone. The power of the individual to publish, without being identified if they wish means that anyone who acts ‘street angel house devil’ will be caught out in time. Those that can ‘manage’ their authenticity will be the exceptions that prove the rule.

  • KelvinGillen

    Thanks Niall, there’s a couple of interesting point there.I think we’ve all experienced situations where a better outcome has been achieved by how we’ve managed ‘ourselves’ during the situation. For me the lesson of authenticity seems to be not to try and manipulate the situation or the other party, but rather adapt yourself to the situation at hand without losing sight of who you are – in a professional sense I think this about knowing how to win acceptance within the corporate culture while retaining one’s distinctiveness as an individual.I don’t think there’s anything that’s not honest or authentic about this behaviour?

  • KelvinGillen

    Thanks Padraig – but I’m not sure that I entirely agree :-)I agree that it’s about being true to oneself but I also think that consistency is key – this means that someone has really spent the time understanding what their values, beliefs etc.. are and these things should not change from day to day – situations and circumstances yes, but values? Interesting point about empathy and how it fits in … maybe a post in itself

  • nialldevitt

    Thanks Kelvin, By the way, this post made it on the front page of Bizsugar today- follow the link above….Congrats!!

  • padraigmckeon

    “someone has really spent the time understanding what their values, beliefs etc.. are and these things should not change from day to day ” Can't argue with that. maybe authentic isn't the right word for what I had in mind though. Say I'm fidgety, non commital and generally unreliable as a person – can I not be authentically so… if you find me as I am with all my shortcomings but not pretending otherwise – is that not anthentic. Granted – very philosophical now – there is a consistency in that behavioural inconsistency… ah to hell – I'm going back to work

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Niall, there’s a couple of interesting point there.

    I think we’ve all experienced situations where a better outcome has been achieved by how we’ve managed ‘ourselves’ during the situation. For me the lesson of authenticity seems to be not to try and manipulate the situation or the other party, but rather adapt yourself to the situation at hand without losing sight of who you are – in a professional sense I think this about knowing how to win acceptance within the corporate culture while retaining one’s distinctiveness as an individual.

    I don’t think there’s anything that’s not honest or authentic about this behaviour?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Padraig – but I’m not sure that I entirely agree :-)

    I agree that it’s about being true to oneself but I also think that consistency is key – this means that someone has really spent the time understanding what their values, beliefs etc.. are and these things should not change from day to day – situations and circumstances yes, but values?

    Interesting point about empathy and how it fits in … maybe a post in itself

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

    Thanks Kelvin, By the way, this post made it on the front page of Bizsugar today- follow the link above….Congrats!!

  • Anonymous

    “someone has really spent the time understanding what their values, beliefs etc.. are and these things should not change from day to day ” Can’t argue with that. maybe authentic isn’t the right word for what I had in mind though. Say I’m fidgety, non commital and generally unreliable as a person – can I not be authentically so… if you find me as I am with all my shortcomings but not pretending otherwise – is that not anthentic. Granted – very philosophical now – there is a consistency in that behavioural inconsistency… ah to hell – I’m going back to work

  • irialofarrell

    Hi Kelvin, Great point to bring up which brings up a little mentioned point in relation to “Values”. While a person may have 5-6 key values, at times, those values may come into conflict. For example, if we take the recent soccer debacle, the organising body had declared their value of “Fair Play” but hadn't mentioned their value of “Commercialism”, which came into spectacular conflict during the recent qualifiers, resulting in invoking little used regulations during the middle of a campaign and being branded “unfair”. So, not only is it important for a leader to understand their values, they also need to be aware of how they rank those values and which one is most important. Then, they need to keep looking up every so often and identifying potential conflicts so that those conflicts can be clearly marked and managed accordingly. This stuff isn't easy, is it?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Kelvin,

    Great point to bring up which brings up a little mentioned point in relation to “Values”. While a person may have 5-6 key values, at times, those values may come into conflict. For example, if we take the recent soccer debacle, the organising body had declared their value of “Fair Play” but hadn’t mentioned their value of “Commercialism”, which came into spectacular conflict during the recent qualifiers, resulting in invoking little used regulations during the middle of a campaign and being branded “unfair”.

    So, not only is it important for a leader to understand their values, they also need to be aware of how they rank those values and which one is most important. Then, they need to keep looking up every so often and identifying potential conflicts so that those conflicts can be clearly marked and managed accordingly, which, I think, dovetails with your point.

    This stuff isn’t easy, is it?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Irial – and no it’s certainly not easy.

    I think your example above is a very good analogy for ‘stress’ and it’s effect on individuals.
    When we come under stress ( and many leadership situations are stressful ! ) our natural inclination is to revert to type and some our more ‘aspirational’ values can really be tested.

    In order to manage this I think it is important for people not only to have reflected on their values as you describe, but also be more self aware about what their ‘stress’ trigger points are, so that they can recognise when they are occurring and ‘readjust’ before it’s too late – make sense?

  • irialofarrell

    Hi Kelvin, It makes perfect sense and the key message in all of this is that leaders need to have a conscious awareness of themselves. Cheers,Irial

  • KelvinGillen

    Thanks Irial – and no it's certainly not easy.I think your example above is a very good analogy for 'stress' and it's effect on individuals.When we come under stress ( and many leadership situations are stressful ! ) our natural inclination is to revert to type and some our more 'aspirational' values can really be tested.In order to manage this I think it is important for people not only to have reflected on their values as you describe, but also be more self aware about what their 'stress' trigger points are, so that they can recognise when they are occurring and 'readjust' before it's too late – make sense?

  • Anonymous

    Hi Kelvin,

    It makes perfect sense and the key message in all of this is that leaders need to have a conscious awareness of themselves.

    Cheers,
    Irial

  • irialofarrell

    Hi Kelvin, It makes perfect sense and the key message in all of this is that leaders need to have a conscious awareness of themselves. Cheers,Irial

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    I’m passionate aboute onlne video and the first suggestiong was quite interesting. I learned more about the guys at Accela Communictions. They seem to have a cool product.Will definitely explore more about video white papers…

  • http://www.btbtraining.com/blog Niall Devitt

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