I received some great feedback from last week’s newsletter, and felt I should build a little further on the idea of authenticity as a leadership quality. As I mentioned in last week’s newsletter, authenticity in and of itself isn’t necessarily a positive trait. We all know someone who doggedly holds on to a narrow belief system out of fear that letting go and evolving would somehow be a betrayal of who they are as a person. To these people, being authentic means staying the course no matter what new information or ideas they come across. The benefits of authenticity can only be realized when it is paired with a willingness to grow.
I grew up in the early years of the “just be yourself” generation, a precursor to the “everybody gets a trophy” ideology that followed. A high premium was placed on being true to yourself, assuming that who you are is a wonderful person. The unfortunate side effect of this ideology is that it can discourage personal accountability and personal growth. If you’re already perfect just the way you are, then why change? Just be yourself and the world will see how great you are. This ideology also tends to assume that who you are is fixed and determined, rather than constantly growing and evolving.
Rejecting this ideology was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my personal growth and for the way in which I relate to other people. I realized that being authentic for me meant that I become more self-aware and open about where I am on my journey of personal growth. Without this awareness and willingness to be honest, I would miss out on opportunities for growth. Being my authentic self meant I could more constructively engage with other people who saw the world differently, unafraid to express my perspective, but also unafraid to hear theirs and learn from it. I found that glossing over differences in attempt to make everyone feel good is counterproductive to growth. Authenticity is about honesty and self-awareness, but in leadership its real value is expressed through better communication and a willingness to continually make your authentic self a better person.