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The Authenticity Paradox

https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

hbr.org

The Authenticity Paradox
Why feeling like a fake can be a sign of growth

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Authenticity has become a mark for leadership

Authenticity has become a mark for leadership

An oversimplified understanding of what it means to be transparent can prevent your growth and limit your influence. When we feel out of our comfort zone, we can often use authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what's comfortable.

For example, a promotion into a leadership role can leave you feeling unsure of yourself. If you believe in superficial transparency, you may disclose all your insecurities to your company, and in the process, lose credibility with people.

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Why leaders struggle with authenticity

  • In trying to improve our game, a firm sense of self is a compass, but when we want to change our game, a too rigid self-concept can prevent us from moving forward.
  • In global business, we often work with people who don't share our cultural norms. They may have a different expectation for how we should behave than what feels authentic.
  • In today's world of connectivity, how we present ourselves is a critical aspect of leadership. We have to carefully curate a persona and that can clash with our private sense of self.

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Leadership styles

There are two ways in which leaders develop their personal styles:

  1. High self-monitors are naturally able to try on different styles until they find a good fit for themselves. They adapt to the demands of a situation without feeling fake. They care about managing their public image and may mask their vulnerability.
  2. True-to-selfers tend to express what they really think and feel, even when it is counter to situational demands. It may make people question their ability to do the job.

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Selling your ideas (and yourself)

Leadership growth usually means shifting from having good ideas to pitching them to diverse stakeholders. Inexperienced leaders, especially true-to-selfers, often find the process of getting buy-in artificial and political because they think their work should stand on its own merits.

Until we see growth as a way of extending our reach and increasing our impact, we will have trouble feeling authentic when expressing our strengths to influential people.

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Processing negative feedback

Negative feedback given to leaders is often about style and not about their skills or expertise. Negative feedback can then feel like a threat to their ability.

However, if they rationalize their behaviour and think their style is unchangeable, it may eventually lead to their undoing.

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Ways to gain an external perspective

Without the benefit of an external perspective we get from experimenting with new leadership behaviours, habitual patterns of thought fence us in.

  • Learn from diverse role models. We should view authenticity not as an intrinsic state but instead as the ability to adopt elements you have learned from others' styles and behaviours.
  • Work on getting better. Setting goals for learning helps us experiment with our identities without feeling like a fraud. It motivates us to develop valued attributes.
  • Don't stick to who you are as a leader. Instead, embrace how your style changes over time and keep editing it.

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Components of Authentic Leadership

  • Self-Awareness: be aware of your trengths, weaknesses, and values and displaying them to your team.
  • Relational Transparency: remain genuine, straightforward, and honest with your team. Display the behavior you hope to see in your employees.
  • Balanced Processing: stick to your values when making decisions, but remain open to discussions and alternatve options.
  • Doing the right thing: focus on doing the right thing for the long-term success of the business, not yours.

3 ways to practie self-awareness as a leader

  • Seek feedback from the environment;
  • Use self-reflection to better understand your behavior;
  • Practice regular self-observation to stay aware of your feelings at all times.
  • Focusing On The Long-Term.

    Authentic leaders focus on the long term. They realize that nurturing individuals and a company requires hard work and patience, but the approach pays large dividends over time.

    Leading With Heart And Mind

    Authentic leaders are not afraid to show their emotions, their vulnerability and to connect with their employees. They understand it doesn’t make them “soft” and that communicating in a direct but empathetic manner is critical to successful outcomes.

    Mission-Driven And Goal Oriented

    Authentic leaders are able to put the mission and the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest. They do the job in pursuit of results.