“Be yourself – not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.”
– Henry David Thoreau
Authenticity is not easy to attain and it is even more difficult to sustain. With the constant bombardment of other people’s thoughts and opinions sometimes it’s incredibly difficult to express or even recognize your own beliefs and desires. Being your authentic self-requires making intentional decisions that are true to you and the life you want to have both personally and professionally. In the workplace, valuing authenticity can make for wonderful leaders and excellent employees.
Whether you hold a leadership role in your company or not, you may find it challenging to bring aspects of yourself into the workplace for fear of not fitting with the company norm. Being authentic should not be confused with “say whatever you like and do whatever you like.” The company’s structure, mission, and values should be respected; if your individual values don’t align with those of the company you work for you may want to consider a change. That being said, all companies should encourage authenticity. Employees put forward the persona that they believe their company or employer desires, which can cause them to live an inauthentic or “divided” life. This can happen to those at the executive level as well. Top executive leadership experts, Dina Rauker and Janet Feldman discuss this in their article, How Being Authentic Accelerates Leadership in Women. “The dissonance caused by living an inauthentic or divided life can be a significant energy drain for women executives, and may be a factor in why some women opt out of the leadership track.” Life is exhausting enough. Don’t try to live life in a way someone else thinks you should. Give your company, family, and friends the best version of yourself.
With authenticity comes an opportunity for greater self-awareness. Self-awareness allows you to see your strengths and weaknesses, and with this knowledge, you can highlight the areas in which you excel and rely on others to assist you with the areas in which you struggle. People who can recognize the best parts of themselves and those around them make excellent employees, but more importantly, they make extra ordinary leaders. Authenticity also helps us self-reflect to define our sense of purpose. With purpose comes the motivation and drive to take on risks and challenges that could lead to new opportunities and if you are a leader your motivation can inspire others.
Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.
– Albert Schweitzer
For more information on how authenticity and leadership go hand in hand, check out Dina Rauker and Janet Feldman’s article.