Authenticity Really is more than Just a Buzzword
Written by: Kathy Gennuso
Harvard Business Review recently ran an article on authenticity, seemingly the hottest topic for executive training, saying it has become the gold standard in leadership.
Though difficult to define, some definitions focus on “knowing oneself” and “being true to one’s values.” But does a society where selfies are so ubiquitous really need encouragement at being more self-centric?
No, that can’t be it –- maybe authenticity is more about self-awareness and willingness to become the best version of your true self that can accept and affirm the true self of others. That must be it!
Ethical business practices (and all other aspects of daily life, for that matter) do seem to beg for authenticity, as sincere negotiation, not coercion, is generally required for long-term positive results. Authentic discussion of each party’s goals requires a win/win negotiating approach, not a quick fix, but flexibility, sensitivity, and collaboration. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying: we both get what we need.
To get there, all parties need to feel safe to express what they want, without fear of treading into those all-too-common, win-lose situations based upon self-worth comparisons, power plays, and competition. Fear of losing prompts defensiveness and a guarded refusal to put our cards on the table. But a calm, authentic leader can hold the reins, albeit loosely, recognize the obstacle, redirect, and reset the tone to cooperation, actively engaging even the more reluctant to open up safely.
I like to keep in mind Stephen Covey’s coined phrase “emotional bank account,” the account that accepts deposits or withdrawals from others. As leaders, we especially need to monitor these transactions, ours and others’. Only making withdrawals and leaving accounts overdrawn is shortsighted and self-serving; whereas, depositing benefits individuals and the group. Authentic leaders model and encourage depositing emotional assets among the team, with clients, and with the greater community. They establish trust, build value, and communicate fairly and reliably.
Both as an ethicist and as an executive, I want to be known as authentic and able to approach conflicts with a win-win attitude. In fact, I want to infuse all of my relationships with greater authenticity, willing to engage in some objective introspection using feedback as an opportunity for growth. And I want that for my organization, as well.
So I intend to keep striving to lead with three character traits I consider vital to authenticity:
- Integrity — honoring true feelings, values, and commitments;
- Maturity — expressing ideas and feelings with courage and consideration for the ideas and feelings of others; and
- Abundance Mentality — believing there is plenty for everyone.
Let me know how I’m doing…