Isn’t it interesting how all the important words — like ‘leadership’, ‘culture’, ‘innovation’, ‘management’ — are open to so many different meanings?
‘Authenticity’ is the same. And, like the rest of them, it’s usually a code for ‘I believe you should be this way’. I’m going to do the same, sorry 🙂
For me, authenticity involves speaking into the world as if it was OK for you to be the way you are, and OK for other people to hear it. It means putting into words what you are feeling.
That requires taking away some of the fears and limitations we place on ourselves.
It doesn’t remove our obligation to attempt to be skilful in communicating, nor to accept responsibility for the impact we have on others. But it does mean breaking the shell of always fitting in with expectations and context.
Peter Block has a nice case study in Flawless Consulting (I’ll paraphrase):
Client: ‘This project shouldn’t take you too long — couple of days? Wish I had some time to spend with you, but there are some really important things going on. My PA can help you out but don’t take too much time from the team — they’re under a lot of pressure’.
time from any of my people. They are under a lot of pressure.”
Consultant feels: Unimportant, small — my work, how I make my living, is being treated as trivial. Am I just an interruption to this character?
Nonauthentic response: ‘This project could have wide implications — corporate will assess you on this, and it’s a requirement.’
Can you feel the emotions leaking through there?
They always do, unless you turn them on yourself.
What would an authentic response look like?
Authenticity actually means opening up your own emotional responses, your own reasoning, inviting others in to your world — and opens the possibility of inquiring into what is going on in their world.
And authenticity is — however inconvenient it often is — a gift
Many people were trained that ‘being nice’ is the way to be. But a nonauthentic response is a compromise with evil — keeping dark things in dark places, where they multiply and fester.
Someone being themselves opens up possibilities in all our worlds.
Have you ever been authentic?