Developing the Craft of Being Authentic, Not Fake
Authenticity has routinely been accepted across philosophical traditions and cultures to be a state to which one aspires. It is assumed that coming across as authentic versus fake is a good thing. It is likely when we describe someone as “authentic,” we admire the person.
In The Art of Authenticity: Tools to Become an Authentic Leader and Your Best Self, Karissa Thacker, founder and president of Strategic Performance Solutions, writes, “Authenticity is not a new idea. Historically, becoming authentic generally meant becoming true to oneself – becoming genuine, or real.”
The path toward greater authenticity, she writes, requires we become more conscious of all the choices we make; real people and real decisions require us to make sense of paradox or seemingly contradictory notions. Both people and situations are inherently paradoxical, Thacker says. The key to seeking and getting the truth is to understand that it is our responsibility to create an environment in which people feel safe to tell the truth.
Truly authentic company coworkers and leaders are people who know how to make sure the stuff which really matters gets done and raise the performance of thousands of people (including themselves) to a higher standard through their presence, impact, and well-chosen actions. We are all leaders, and we are all followers in this digital era.
Dr. Nina Burrowes, a British psychologist, writes in The Little Book on Authenticity that if we want to understand the true meaning of authenticity, we need to go back to its root. The Latin root of the word “authenticity” is “author,” so becoming “authentic” doesn’t mean becoming honest about who we are. Rather, it’s about becoming our own “author.” Authenticity is an active and creative process. It’s not about revealing something. It’s about building something, and that something is “us”.
The desire to fit in, conform, and seek out experts and higher authorities is difficult to resist. All these feelings are a normal and unavoidable part of creating our authentic selves. But the truth of the matter is that the only person who can be the author of us is us. It is a daunting task and one that we must all face alone. Embracing our authenticity is the only way to become “us” and becoming “us” is the greatest asset we have when it comes to becoming a capable coworker or leader. It is our “self” that inspires others, connects with them, and ultimately garners their trust. It is our “self” who they will follow.
The good news is that if we are fully authentic, we will never have to go through the process of revealing who we are. True authenticity doesn’t require us to tell anyone else what our values are because everyone will be able to see our values in the way we live our lives. When we are fully authentic, we don’t reveal our chosen values, we become them – we live them. If we want to become authentic in the workplace, we must avoid focusing on revealing who we are; instead, we must focus on creating and truly becoming ourselves.
Authentic coworkers and leaders are committed to the pursuit of the truth about our businesses, ourselves, and other people. A virtue, like pursuing the truth, is not a skill-based strength like communicating clearly or having a good mind for math. Virtue goes deeper than skill. Sometimes authentic company coworkers and leaders practice virtues like telling the truth for the sake of telling the truth. Such times serve as self-defining moments in the journey toward becoming more authentic.
Understanding more about the dynamics of trust is helpful for everyone. Part of that is becoming more aware of how we decide whom to trust and whom not to trust. This helps us understand how others make similar calculations. Trust consists of integrity, capability, and benevolence.
Becoming authentic is about determining who we are in our own way and making the contributions only we can make. This process, however, does involve difficult choices, hard work, and struggle. Becoming authentic is a daily practice. It is a moment-by-moment choice of embracing our truth and being fearless enough to share it with our colleagues, organization, and the world.