Be yourself. Be true to you. Don’t try to be someone else. Don’t put on false airs. Be authentic.
“The essence of authenticity is being yourself fully.” –Karissa Thacker
Most leaders hear this advice but don’t know what it means, what to do about it, or how it impacts everyday life in the office.
Becoming an authentic leader is more than a lofty goal. It’s an essential part of your effectiveness. My own experience is that it’s often authenticity that sets the great leaders apart. We don’t always know why we are inspired by certain individuals, but I think it is this characteristic that appeals to us at a deep level.
To learn more about this subject, I read Karissa Thacker’s terrific new book, The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self. Karissa is the founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions. She is a management psychologist, focusing on human performance and satisfaction at work. I recently asked her to share some thoughts about her work on authenticity.
What I particularly like about her new book is that, as the subtitle of the book suggests, she provides tools to help with the goal.
Lead with Authenticity
How would you define authenticity in leadership?
Both authenticity and leadership are important in defining authentic leadership. Leadership is about getting things done that are both difficult and important in the context of a specific organization or more broadly any human community. Authenticity adds another layer which is being true to your own nature AS you are getting things done that are difficult and important.
What’s the relationship between authenticity and leadership?
Our typical way of thinking about authenticity is to just be yourself, and it will all turn out better. Of course, be yourself. It sounds so simple. The first problem with that is you are not that simple. We humans are just not that simple. There is no one solid self like a concrete block. Our hardwired adaptive traits as humans mean that we behave differently under different situations and circumstances. Leadership requires this adaptability. But you have to find ways to communicate who you are as you are leading effectively. More importantly, you have to figure out ways to stay in touch with what is important to you as you are in the thick of getting things done. Paying attention to the inner game and outer game at the same time is a lot easier said than done. Said another way, it is easier to just be authentic or just figure out how to get things done that are difficult and important. But the daily question is how do we do both at the same time?
“Authenticity is knowing, and acting on, what is true and real inside yourself…” –Robert Terry
Why do you think there is currently so much interest in leadership authenticity?
Trust in big institutions like our government here in the US is low. I also think that the modern era poses some challenges with upping the ante on aspects of authenticity like transparency. Like it or not, we are in an age of transparency. The boundaries between private life and work or with private life in general are not what they used to be.
Leadership is never a value-neutral concept. To say someone is a leader means we have high expectations. A lot of this interest comes down to people wanting our leaders to step up and make things happen that are good for the whole. Any robust discussion of authenticity takes you fully into the thicket of human moral psychology as authenticity is so not a value-neutral construct.
“Fear is not your friend if you want a culture of authenticity.” –Karissa Thacker
Jim Carrey’s movie Liar Liar immediately came to mind when I read your Truth Serum Question. Would you share this exercise with us?