The Thing About Authenticity

The thing about authenticity, we can’t always put it in words, but we definitely know it and sense it when we are around someone who has it.

A story was shared with me recently about a leader who felt they had to act a certain way, to be a certain way, to put on a different persona, to not only gain respect, but to be able to draw out certain behaviors and actions from those under their leadership.

The question I had…

How long can you keep that type of persona, that type of acting, before people see through the veneer of what it really is, an act.

Unfortunately, many leaders feel like that is what they have to do, they have to put on their leadership “mask” when they come to work each day.

Never presenting those they lead with the true “spirit” of who they are and what they are really about.  Many leaders masquerade throughout the entirety of their career as something they are truly not, putting on that mask.  Trying to be what they think a leader is supposed to be, instead of becoming the leader they ought to be.

Unfortunately, some leaders believe that their influence is founded in position and authority, never realizing that real leadership strength and courage is founded in being vulnerable.

When we hide behind something that we aren’t, the only people we are fooling is ourself.  We may think the “mask” hides us, but it is just a facade, a thin veneer that fades over time.

It is when we tap into our true and authentic self that we not only show others who we are but, we begin to truly discover for ourselves who we are.  What we are really about.   And that is in this space that we begin to grow and flourish, as a person, and as a leader.

Authenticity is what makes a leader real.  It is why we get a good “gut” feeling when we meet that person.  It is why we connect, why we feel trust.  We know that we see is what we are going to get, the “real” you.

When leaders lack authenticity, they lose trust.  It is difficult to trust a leader who is afraid or unable to be who they really are.

As leaders, we need to put on our true selves each day.  Not a “mask” of who or what someone else thinks we need to be.  To feel open to show the chinks in our armor, to be honest about our struggles, our failures, even our hopes and dreams.

The real you…

That is what people want to see.  That is what people want to connect with, the authentic you.  That is a leader that people want and are willing to follow.

It is when we dig deep to find our true, authentic selves, that we find the capacity to grow as the leader that we can and should be.

“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”  -May Sarton


2 thoughts on “The Thing About Authenticity

  1. Great post, David.
    I really appreciate the link between vulnerability and authenticity.
    Years ago, I remember an administrator telling me that when he got out of the car in the school parking lot, everyday, he reminded himself that he was the Principal and so altered his persona to fit the title.
    To be ‘authentic’, I believe that who you are as an administrator is who you are as a person…period. Contexts change but who you are is the constant. I call it being your intravidual self:
    Thanks for sharing

  2. Thanks for your wisdom, David. When I’m led by a leader who is willing to be themselves, that gives me the permission to be myself too–both my strong self and my self that is still reaching. Also I think some leaders feel like they have to do it all when in fact if they share the responsibility with the staff in some ways it serves to grow a stronger community. Have a great day.

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