Why Authenticity Is Not Always a Virtue

With the advent of social media, it has become easier than ever to judge and to be judged by others. One misstep that in days gone by would likely fly under the radar now has the potential to go viral and destroy reputations and personal credibility. As such, public figures, especially those in positions of leadership, have felt the need to very carefully craft their personas. Every word, every image, every idea is checked and rechecked against the backdrop of public opinion. While we can appreciate the seeming transparent nature of this relationship with our leaders, we must also be aware that it possesses the potential to stifle real progress. We no longer have room in our lives for mistakes, for misunderstandings, and most of all, for authenticity.

It seems that society has begun to crave authenticity and transparency in leadership to such an extent that some now see almost any public display of mindless arrogance as an attribute of good leadership (“Well, at least he’s authentic”). The kind of authenticity needed in leadership can be achieved through simply being open and honest about where you are and where you would like to be. Authenticity in and of itself isn’t necessarily a virtue, but when embraced with other attributes of good leadership (communication, inspiration, and compassion), it fosters creativity and productivity. When you allow room for authenticity, for mistakes and misunderstandings, you are also creating opportunities for growth.

Authenticity isn’t necessarily controversial or brazen nonconformity, however confrontation is unavoidable in an environment that embraces authenticity. When open and honest dialogue is encouraged, problems can be quickly addressed, with less time and resources wasted. It helps people understand each other quickly, address any underlying issues, and develop a more effective and productive relationship. An environment of authenticity makes room for new ideas and opportunities, and inspires others to join you in your vision. Without being your authentic self today, you have very little hope in becoming your best self tomorrow.

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