Over the past few years, study after study has shown the value of “authenticity” and “authentic leadership” in achieving business goals. Greater authenticity correlates with a more positive culture and greater team satisfaction, which in turn correlates with business success. It may seem like a simple equation, but putting it into practice is anything but. Part of the role of the coach or communication consultant is to help our clients navigate the complexities of authenticity.
At the most basic level, authenticity is the ability to “be yourself.” Again, that seems simple, but the reality of crafting a consistent identity presents quite a few challenges. Recent research shows that, depending on context, we make different decisions about what part of our “authentic self” to reveal. Multiple dimensions of our identity interact and both micro- and macro-level pressures can create a feeling of needing to revise the self on a moment-to-moment basis. As the context or environment we’re in changes, so does the aspect of our identity that we tap into most. If the self is, essentially, fluid and contextual, how can we be sure that we are showing up authentically as leaders?
Acting on values
Additional layers of complexity emerge when we move to put “authentic values” into action. First, espousing a value or set of values but failing to live up to them creates an environment of mistrust and alienation. Take for example the case of a CEO who holds up courage and transparency as a core corporate value, then has a representative from HR deliver negative feedback to employees. The message being delivered is that the corporate values are merely words on a page, not something to be lived at all levels of the organization. Employee satisfaction at this company is low and there is a pervasive atmosphere of insecurity and mistrust....
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