Authenticity in leadership re-examined
Authenticity in leadership - does fake it 'til you make it work?
Herminia Ibarra, economist and leadership author, commented on authenticity in leadership in The Authenticity Paradox
"Authenticity has become the gold standard for leadership. But a simplistic understanding of what it means can hinder your growth and limit your impact."
Many of us often struggle with feeling inauthentic during periods of transition, because a promotion, or new job or any professional change can trigger “imposter syndrome” and feelings of inadequacy. Read: How to let go and move on: Making the best of life’s transitions
Ibarra says that people view their true self as something fixed and unchanging, and stick to their comfort zone because it feels easy for them to act authentically when they aren’t being challenged. Read: Taking a Look at the Comfort Zone In fact, she says, you grow and evolve with each change in your external circumstances, and learning always involves behavior which feels unnatural at first.
Author Brene Brown has summarised it neatly as,
“Authenticity is a series of choices we make every day”
True authenticity in leadership is constantly shifting.
Authenticity in Leadership
[Tweet "What is authenticity, even?"] At its most basic, it means being honest and true to yourself. Commentators usually widen the definition to cover a variety of characteristics – such as being self-aware, empathetic, willing to listen to others, and driven by values. Authenticity has become a vague catch-all term for soft skills and self-development. Read: 3 Ways to Enhance Leadership Qualities with Empathy
Feeling authentic can be difficult during transition. Psychologist Mark Snyder splits people into two categories depending on their own level of emotional control, and each will seem very different when they act in a way which feels true to themselves. Low self-monitors are more in touch with their own feelings: they stick doggedly to what they believe, and refuse to change based on what others want. High self-monitors (Ibarra calls them “chameleons”) find it easy to read social cues and adjust their behavior to match what’s expected of them. They can come across as disingenuous and fake, persuasion, adaptability, flexibility is what comes naturally to them. Some might call it manipulation.
The clash comes when your own authentic self, your true personality, doesn’t match corporate expectations. This commonly happens in international companies, in which people from a variety of different backgrounds are expected to fit into a narrow company culture. For example, open disagreement is common in French workplaces, whereas in Japan the aim is to get group consensus before making a decision. Neither idea is wrong, but they can’t coexist; if a Japanese and a French person found themselves on the same team, the only way to reach compromise would be for one or both of them to act in a way which felt unnatural. (Erin Meyer has done some fascinating research on business culture in different countries)
Style of Leadership
Ibarra points out that people in high-powered positions tend to be criticized on the “style, not substance” of their leadership, and this can make it feel harder to be open and transparent at work. Read: 3 Es for Insights on Leadership Styles This is especially true for women in powerful positions; they are already more likely to be criticised for subjective character traits based on unconscious bias than objective performance. The assertive vs abrasive comments are rife in the corporate workplace for women but not men.
Leadership styles tends to be associated with a stereotypically type of male behaviour. (the “Think Manager, Think Male” stereotype), which means women are often expected to tone down their authentic voice in order to fit with the prevailing company culture. If you’re a woman who’s naturally blunt, or introverted, or standoffish, or shy, then showing that authentic aspect of your personality will do you no favours at work. Read: To Grow as a Leader, Know Your Leadership Qualities.
Self-awareness is your foundation for continuous development and increased effectiveness as a leader. Why? You can’t maximize or change what you don’t see.
Get in touch with 3Plus International and you can choose from a variety of assessments that will help:
- Increase your self-awareness
- Identify your leadership development goals
- Create your leadership
- development plan
Found that interesting?
Learn more about our services
Make your dreams a reality with a professional evaluation of your career to date.
The evidence is in. More women in your company can deliver 35% greater financial returns. (Catalyst)
Dates for the Diary
JUNE 6-8TH 2019 - OMBUDSPERON EUROPEAN WOMEN’S LOBBY BRUSSELS
Download and listen free podcasts
How to Create an Effective USP What is a USP? Our Unique Selling Point or UVP (Unique Value Proposition) is our key core message about where...read more
How to Rethink the Modern Workplace for Gender Equality New research shows that diversity and inclusion is a top priority for leaders. So why...read more
Menopause in the workplace In this podcast with Nicki Williams award winning author, keynote speaker and Founder of Happy Hormones for Life,...read more
How to Cultivate Empathy in the Workplace Nancy Milton, international business communications expert, keynote speaker and author, share some vital...read more
Taking Care of your COW Tanvi Guatam, international Personal Branding expert says there is a misconception out there that a personal brand is...read more
The importance of Hard Talk Dawn Metcalfe, author of Managing the Matrix and Hard Talk, shares with us tips to achieve the lasting communication...read more
When Does Female Rivalry Turn into Sabotage There’s a lot of stuff written on social media about female rivalry and competition between women. Some...read more
Goal setting tips to boost your career The happiest people are those that really love their jobs. Those that don’t, dread Sunday nights and...read more
Sexism: How to stage a Bystander Intervention in the Workplace In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions...read more
How to Get Noticed by Head Hunters & Recruiters In this power coaching podcast, we're going to tackle one of the questions asked multiple...read more
Do you know how to create an inclusive event? Setting up an event that welcomes everyone means your event will be more productive and successful for all.read more
These tips will work to build relationships for remote workers and office workers alike. Use them to overcome the barriers of distance.read more
Find out how women upskill their careers, which is vital not just to boost your career progression, but to protect your employment opportunities.read more