“What we do is more important than what we say or what we say we believe.” – bell hooks
One popular topic in business and leadership circles these days is authenticity, and the importance of being authentic in your relationships as an organization, both internally with your employees and externally with your customers and vendors and partners. The dictionary defines the word authentic as meaning “not false”, or “true to one’s own personality, spirit or character”, “genuine”, etc.
It’s interesting to think about authenticity in a leadership context because there are so many situations where we feel we need to act a certain way or “be” something different depending on who’s around or what’s going on. We could probably fill this space for a year discussing examples of authenticity (or lack thereof) that we see on a daily basis.
The point of all that discussion around authenticity, though, is this. At some point, you have to actually be what you say you are. And if you’re not, for long enough, people will recognize it. Once they recognize it, they’ll lose respect for you, and they won’t want to work for or with you anymore.
Think about your relationships with your employees or co-workers. Would they describe you as authentic? Do they see your behavior and wonder what changed since the last conversation they had with you? Do they talk to you and wonder if what you’re telling them is real?
There are a lot of leaders who talk about respect, and life balance, and being a team, and a whole bunch of other things that sound really good. But if you watch them on a daily basis you don’t see any of that stuff. And make no mistake, as a leader, you are being watched all the time.
I don’t mean that you have to be perfect. None of us are. You will make mistakes. Sometimes what you say and what you do won’t match up. But that better be rare, and when it happens, and you’re aware of it, you need to own it and apologize for it immediately.
Take the next couple of weeks and make a point to notice what you’re saying to people and whether your behavior matches those words. Better yet, ask somebody you trust what they see. Sometimes we have too many blind spots to notice where we’re coming up short. However you do it, take note of the situations where your words and actions don’t line up.
Then ask yourself a simple question: Who am I? Who do I really want to be? What do I need to change to make that so? Time to get to work.