Authenticity: The Catalyst To Building Resilience
“Your authentic self is who you are when you have no fear of judgment, before the world starts pushing you around and telling you who you’re supposed to be. Your fictional self is who you are when you have a mask on to please those around you.” – Dr. Phil
Authenticity Can’t Be Copied
Everyone likes to believe they are authentic. But it is painfully obvious to others when someone is not. Authenticity requires high self-awareness. In fact, it depends on it. Authenticity is being intentional about our image and projecting to the world who we really are.
Many people think they can become authentic through imitation. They read about or observe good leaders and copy the habits of people they admire. Their fatal flaw is that the focus is on what those people do, rather than on how those people think. A great example is a leader who creates an open door policy because it sounds like a good idea and then refuses to listen to the people who come in. You may have met him…
This may yield short-term results, but that approach will not be sustainable. All the copying in the world will not produce the one key ingredient critical for authenticity: Knowing who we really are and making choices aligned with that knowledge.
When we try to copy an idea we don’t genuinely believe in, the lack of authenticity shows.
Managing Image & Preception
Authenticity reflects the real you; what you truly believe or feel. You know that you are being authentic when the image you project to the world reflects who you really are.
In his book, “An Everyone Culture,” Bob Kegan, a professor at Harvard’s School of Education, tells us that most working professionals have two full-time jobs: The first is their regular job (the one they are paid for) and the second, taking up an equal amount of time, is the additional job of managing their image and how they are perceived at work. In other words, they are trying to ensure positive impressions while avoiding negative ones.
Kegan’s research suggests that this “image protection” effort is costing companies billions of dollars a year, not to mention the psychological and physical implications of the stress it causes.
People Respect Authenticity In Others
We recognize the people around us who are authentic. They have a sincerity about them that invites us to trust them. They know they are good enough without needing someone to remind them. They’re open to learning in just about any situation because they’re not afraid of appearing as though they don’t know everything. They ask questions and show that they care about understanding the answers.
Authentic people are real. Even if we don’t like them, we will most likely respect them and trust their intentions.
People Recognize Authenticity In Organizations
Authenticity and ‘hiding’ behind an image happens to organizations, too. Have you ever worked for a company that prided itself on customer service and wouldn’t spend enough money to really serve customers well? The market can fuel corporate authenticity when an organization’s behaviors and visible decisions are in alignment with who or what the organization says it is.
Remember how Johnson & Johnson handled the tainted Tylenol scandal? Seven people died from malevolent tampering. But their senior leadership, headed by chairman James Burke, formed a strategy team and began not with the question “how do we save the product and our profits?’ but rather with the question, “how do we protect the people?” The result is a case study in successful, proactive, authentic leadership.
People recognize authenticity in organizations. An organization’s mission, vision, and values may line the walls of the conference room and offices, but they are just hiding behind an image if their decisions don’t line up with who they say they are.
Because these decisions are made by people, authenticity can only happen when leaders are on the same page.
Our ability to thrive when things get hard, both for individuals and for companies, depends on our resilience and the choices we make. Resilience is a function of our authenticity and attitude. It’s important because it is the first line of defense when things get tough and it minimizes the stress that inherently comes with maintaining an image, allowing all that energy to go to dealing with the disruption effectively.