The Authenticity Trap

authenticityAs an Executive and Business Coach I routinely hear stories about bad employee behavior. Sometimes it’s simply that the employee is “not like me.” “Why can’t they act more like me?” is a common refrain. The simple answer is that they are “not you,” nor should you want them to be. If they were, they would start their own businesses. In some cases, this is perfectly okay, but if all of them did it, we’d be all by ourselves without employees.

The authenticity trap is when we think because we’ve identified our values, know what we do well and not well and try to behave true to that we assume everyone else should as well and get very righteous when they don’t. We also want everyone to be like us – aren’t we wonderful? “I know who I am, why don’t you act more like me, wouldn’t it be great?” Worse is when we think we are being authentic and as a result, feel entitled to a certain amount of respect or in some cases “things” because of our authenticity.

Authenticity is not about making everyone like you. It’s not an entitlement of any kind. It’s about knowing who we are, how we tick and what makes us happy and sad. Some of the current politicians are so convinced of their “greatness” and “authenticity” and that everyone loves them because of this. Let’s put this in perspective, there have only been primaries and the leading candidates have received barely over 10MM votes out of the approximately 160 MM eligible voters. Not a majority by any stretch. And when we actually do have a candidate who is really authentic, we sometimes brand them as weak and boring.

Governance is hard work. Leading is hard work. Hard choices have to be made and with an authentic core, you realize you will always have someone who is not happy because not everyone will agree with you. Politics is for show, it’s sometimes the least authentic spectacle, other than a “reality” program. You see this as candidates shift from left to right, “walk back” their positions or statements or just pretend they never said something.

Authenticity is about knowing yourself and recognizing that everyone is unique and different.  It’s about making everyday decisions based on who we are and what we want to accomplish and engaging others in the process. Because of this, authenticity is the core of real leadership.

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