Does Authenticity Really Work for Leaders?


Over the past decade, there has been growing fervor for authenticity everywhere, including the workplace. Benefits of being an authentic leader are many Leaders who share their authentic selves waste less time putting on facades, selecting convoluted words or playing games regarding what they mean, hoping that others will guess.
Authentic leaders are easier to brand because easily stand out and are remembered for who they are versus attempting to blend in with other leaders of the day. They celebrate their signature personalities realizing that it’s not meant for every place, but it’s worth keeping genuine for that right fit audience.
It’s also easier for people to connect to authentic leaders. There are fewer layers to push through when you can go directly to the heart of the person. Authentic leaders allow us to go directly to their hearts and see what’s inside.
Enough of all of the positive stuff regarding authentic leaders, the uglier side of the truth here is that authenticity is not always celebrated, particularly in the Western Hemisphere. Negative depictions of authenticity have been termed “shooting from the hip, lacking self- control, Low Emotional Intelligence and unsophisticated among other things. Even in the Democratic Election, we see the taboo that authenticity had created around candidate Bernie Sanders. The biggest criticism in the Democratic Party of Mr. Sanders is that he’s not electable. Many have deemed him not electable because he is not perceived as sophisticated enough, not as refined. As a society, we often perceive the leader who tells the most truths as unsophisticated and unable to manipulate, not entertaining that the authenticity might actually be a choice versus a handicap limited to babes.
Getting back to the question at hand, does authenticity really work for leaders? Authenticity not only works, but it is a requirement for leaders with tenures of longevity. Sure a leader can be coached to have the right gravitas, say the right thing at the right time in order to get from point A to B. However, the leader who is going to be able to build a sustainable team is the one with whom the team can connect. That connection has to be made with a real leader, a real person. It goes without saying that the authenticity of the leader has to have some amiable characteristics in order to maintain successful longevity. The argument regarding which is more appealing a genuine jerk or fake nice one is not covered so much here. However, we do know that the surface is slippery. We can grab the surface, but it’s hard to hold on to it, without the substance. Therefore, authenticity should be seen like the foundation, the pass/ fail of leadership. While other elements are important, without authenticity, a leader will not be able to sustain his/ her career. It will be fleeting just like the façade carried.