Authenticity has become something of a buzzword in leadership circles. Implications and explanations of leadership authenticity abound. Not long ago, I heard a leader describe the culture of his organization to a newcomer in simple terms. He said, “We keep it real around here!” That’s a pretty good opening line. After giving it some thought, I decided to unpack the statement a little. It turns out, there are few valuable lessons that lead the way for deeper discussions about how to develop greater authenticity.
The “we” in authenticity
Most discussions about leadership authenticity begin with the individual leader. That’s an appropriate focus. There is no such thing as vicarious integrity. You must assume responsibility for aligning your values and actions. However, authenticity is developed in relationships. The “we” in your leadership world is important. Soliciting 360 degree input will help you discern reality and become true to yourself.
The “keep” in authenticity
Sustaining leadership authenticity over the long haul requires maintenance. If it’s been a while since you sat down and set aside some time for self-examination, you are overdue. Keeping authenticity requires diligence and effort. When the pressures of leadership heat up, you may be surprised by the temptation to forsake authenticity and revert to old habits you thought were dead and buried. This is another area where the “we” helps. Authentic leaders crave accountability and accurate feedback. It builds robust authenticity that survives the challenges of life.
The “real” in authenticity
There are some qualities that belong together. Some words convey a symbiosis. They just seem to belong together. Think about honesty and integrity. Try to separate grace and forgiveness. Real and authentic are two such words. Define what is “real” in your leadership and you are well on your way toward understanding “authenticity”. In order to “keep it real”, you must be willing to cut through the smoke and mirrors and discern reality.
The “here” in authenticity
Leadership is always contextual. There is always a “here.” I once heard an interesting definition of organizational culture. Culture is to organizations what water is to fish. In others words, you swim around in it all day. You can easily take it for granted and cease to notice that it gives you the opportunity to move around and perform successfully every day. There is a “here” in authenticity. You swim around in it every day. It’s obvious, but it bears repeating. Leaders impact culture. Authentic leadership is one of the most positive contributors to healthy culture. It clears the clutter and allows everyone to perform better, with more clarity.
How do you “keep it real” in your culture? What are the basic practices that reinforce authenticity?