Creating Authentic Leadership: Is Authenticity just a Buzz Word?

HeartWise core values cards

HeartWise core values cards

Is Authenticity Just a Buzz Word?

Authenticity is one of the new business buzz words, along with connection, building relationships and focusing on the WE instead of the I. Why is authenticity showing up everywhere? Are consumers driving this? Or is it our personal evolution and need to be real?

For me authenticity is about transparency and vulnerability. I am not perfect, don’t claim to be and don’t want you to think I am. I do not sit on pedestals or see others as less than. Neither do I place others on pedestals. There are many people I admire, many people who have done amazing work in their lifetime. That doesn’t make them better than me. As Dr. Seuss says in Horton Hears a Who, “People are people no matter how small.”

Authenticity is acceptance of self

To me, an important part of authenticity is acceptance of our self in all our beautiful imperfection. I was listening to a talk by David Whyte, one of my favorite authors and poets. He talks about not treating ourselves as a self-development project but as a revelation. I love that. When you see your life as a revelation that is unfolding daily, it turns life into an adventure, a poem, a work of art like Michelangelo’s David. I spent years seeing myself as a self-development project in need of work but when I shift focus to seeing myself unfolding and becoming, I am open to what’s next and also more focused on who I am right now. Perfectly imperfect.

Seth Godin wrote about authenticity on his blog and I like his definition. He writes:

“Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not ‘being who you are’.

That’s because ‘being’ is too amorphous and we are notoriously bad at judging that. Internal vision is always blurry. Doing, on the other hand, is an act that can be seen by all.”

What I appreciate about Godin’s definition is the emphasis on doing over being. Now don’t get me wrong. I am a big fan of being but acceptance of my being doesn’t always come easy. Where authenticity comes into play in this equation is my transparency in sharing my struggles as well as my accomplishments. Like Godin says, I want my actions speak louder than my words.

Who do you want to work with?

When I think about who I want to do business with in the world, I want to work with people who are not just telling me how great they are but are willing to share the mistakes they made as well as the success they enjoy. Authenticity is a two-headed coin: one one side is the face of our mistakes and on the flip side is the face of our success. Odds are that if we flip that coin over and over again, we will see a fair representation of both sides.

Another aspect of authenticity that Godin addresses is what makes authenticity a hot buzz word in today’s marketplace: the ability to always show up as YOU. I am who I am who I am. What you see is what you get. No hidden agendas, fabrication or artifice.

I am sure you know people who fail to represent themselves authentically. That friend who is sometimes your friend and other times not and you are never sure who is going to show up for lunch. Or the person who’s personality changes depending on who they are hanging out with. They “put on airs” you might say, act like someone different, suddenly become someone you would swear you have never met before.

As a consumer and as an entrepreneur, I hope that authenticity in the marketplace is here to stay. I want to work with others who share my core values, who aren’t afraid to be real, who see themselves as a revelation waiting to unfold.

Is authenticity on your core values list? Be sure to download my FREE Core Values Assessment to learn more about your personal and professional values and why they are the foundation of building an authentic business brand.

What do you think? Do you need to be more authentic? Do you appreciate authenticity in others?



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  1. Coach Sue on December 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

    A great post! I love Seth Godin and he has great insight that he shares with such eloquence. I also love your reference of those that think they show up as one person and really are someone else. I’d say they don’t know themselves very well. I hope authenticity also stays in the work place and that people actually know what it means.

    Sue Bock

  2. Madonna on December 7, 2012 at 2:16 am

    I agree with everything you said Minette. Unfortunately, all words that are over used can become nothing more than ‘buzz words,’ which is the time the clever folk come up with a new word or phrase which the majority adopt without question in the hope of appearing clever and ‘with it.’

    Many of those in the healing ans spiritual professions who really should know better have jumped on this bandwagon and use ‘authentic’ as a way of asserting superiority over us lesser creatures who don’t necessarily or overtly deal with they deem authentic.

    Everyone forgets that at the end of the day, we all have a vested interest in either putting food on the table or becoming famous or some other form of self interest. Authentic is sometimes used to distinguish between those who make no bones about that and those who pretend they are trying to save the whole world out of nothing more than a general desire to help.

    i would ask in that case, who is the most authentic?

  3. How to be authentic on December 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

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