How to Navigate the Path to Authenticity
“Authenticity is your greatest asset. Lose your authenticity and you’ve lost everything,” Marcus Buckingham. For Buckingham authenticity is strength based leadership.
But, are you sure who the authentic you is? I’m not. Additionally, I get confused between who I am and who I want to be. Wanting obscures.
- I want to please people but not be a people pleaser.
- I want to please myself but not be selfish.
- I want to make a difference but not be controlled by success.
- I want to lead with emotion but my emotions flop around like a fish on a dock.
- I want to lead from the heart but my heart isn’t always noble.
- I want to exhibit confidence but does wanting indicate I’m not.
Seth Godin suggests we spend too much time on the ambiguous, evasive topic of being.
“Internal vision is always blurry. Authenticity, for me, is doing what you promise, not ‘being who you are’.”
It’s a challenge to “be who you are” when you aren’t sure who that is.
Alternatives and options:
- Do more than find yourself, make contributions.
- Contributing enlightens. You see yourself best when you’re doing not thinking, go do something.
- Create a team that openly acknowledges and radically maximizes each other’s strengths.
- Find someone dedicated to helping you reach your potential. Warning: Most want you to be who they want.
- Inspire others to seek their greatest contribution, not the one you want them to make.
Roots of authentic leadership:
An authentic leadership-future emerges from the things you’ve changed in your past.
- What difficulties have you overcome?
- What challenges have you successfully faced?
Leaders change things. If you aren’t changing something you aren’t leading.
The things you’ve changed in your life represent your authentic leadership potential.
How are you finding authentic leadership?
Post in a picture by Larry Copennrath: Courage
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I have to disagree with Seth Godin on authenticity. The only thing worse than making a bad promise is keeping a bad promise. However, I do see how we can become so focused on “being” that we become unbalanced.
It’s the yin and the yang. Being AND doing. Doing springs forth from being, and we achieve deeper levels of understanding our being from doing. I believe authenticity is engaging in the process itself. Authenticity is not the same thing as perfection, and yet at the same time, it is. What a great paradox!
I’ve learned an acronym that is helping me on this path to authenticity – H. U. L. P. Are my motives Honest, Unselfish, Loving and Pure? If I can answer yes to those questions, chances are my actions are reflecting the authentic me. If not, I’m still working on it. But even the “unauthentic me” is who I authentically am “in the moment.”
I get the feeling that your authentic self is who you want to be. Am I reading that right?
Thank you for your HULP acronym. It’s helpful.
I think the advice of go do something runs deeper. By doing something we have the experience OF being. Therefore by DOing we give ourselves the opportunity to find out who or what we want to be. Experiment. DO lots of things and your BEing becomes apparent. Thanks for this reminder. 🙂
Thanks for simplifying a powerful idea. Go out and do.
I like the practice that many leaders use. They reflect on their doing. I like that better than just contemplating the meaning of life.
I’ve done a lot of thinking on this topic, and to me, there is a very large variable that I believe we benefit from considering when discussing authenticity, and that is what the RELATIONSHIP is asking for.
I am currently writing a workshop on more authentic relationships, and here is what I’ve come to so far for a workable/evolving definition of authenticity (from my WordVibes blog on the topic):
“We have relationships with everything we perceive, whether that is an object, event, or a person. Our authenticity depends on our authentic response to that relationship, and what is appropriate within that context.
Therefore, authenticity is not ‘speaking one’s truth no matter what,’ but is about responding in truth [from WHO we are] to what the relationship is calling for.”
Now, that put out there, I also have to say that being in touch with core desires that are in my highest interest over time are very important to my authenticity. Why? Because if I am not both aware of, and appropriately transparent about what I really want, how can others respond authentically to me in the relationship?
So, for me, authentic leadership RELATIONSHIPS benefit from high levels of self-awareness and inside-out decision making, AND transparency of direction as is appropriate to the leadership relationship, AND responding to each relationship that is in the domain of leadership in a way that is aware of what serves the relationship from the truth of WHO I am.
Best to you…
I was hoping you’d chime in on this one.
Your insight regarding being transparent with what we want helps others respond transparently is beautiful. You help us see why many relations become shallow or disappointing.
Thanks again for adding value.
I like the concept of “transparency” to describe “authenticity.”
THAT is a great question Dan – and there is an answer to it – I think.
The “million dollar question” is: Who do I trust?
So there is a “who”, there is an “I” and there is “trust”.
Three crucial words: Who – I – Trust.
(Past, present or future tense is also important).
Who – can be family, spouse, boss, church, God or yourself ….
I – can be the public, private, hidden, not known at all, obvious or….
Trust – is nothing less than the asset we have on our life-account: it can be small or medium or large – so you can be poor or weathy.
To me trust is like sitting in a chair – you trust that the chair will hold you. It is also funny that chair is “stol” in my language and “stol” means Trust. This made me think some time ago that if you sit in a chair you would not dream of being afraid that the chair will not hold you! To me this was a good lesson in trust.
There also is an interesting debate going nowadays about introvert and extrovert personallity. I think there also is much to learn about authenticity in the knowledge of personality types.
🙂 We are all uniqe and our uniqeness is badly needed!
As for me I trust God and in the abilities He has given me and the journey continues and my knowledge and trust grow and the interest rate grows.
My thoughts on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Hope you enjoy!
You honor us with your insights and transparency. Thank you.
I love the component of trust in this conversation. You’ve given us lots to think about… who do we trust? Love it.
You also add the dimension of personality profiles. Again, thank you.
PS .. thanks for being a prolific contributor!
Great post Dan. Kouzes and Pozner talk about this a ton in both “Leaders Legacy” and “The Truth about Leadership.” They tie a big know between authenticity and vulnerability. Then their command to the leader: “You go first.”
I love these statements in this section:
I want to please people but not be a people pleaser.
I want to please myself but not be selfish.
I want to make a difference but not be controlled by success.
I want to lead from the heart but my heart isn’t always noble.
You’ve really nailed the juxtaposition of being human and desiring to be a selfless leader. Much to think about.
Always a pleasure having you drop in.
Wow, vulnerability and authenticity…I’m going to dig out Kouzes and Posner and review “The Truth about Leadership”
Authenticity comes from personality and character. People do things what they feel is right. Is it authenticity? Authenticity is strength based leadership? The question is what kind of strength? People might use physical strength to achieve what they want. People might use manipulative skill what they want to achieve. I think, the whole discussion on authenticity is based on intention. One may fulfill his or her promise to cheat someone. Thus, authenticity for me is right intention to do things in time. For me, authenticity is being human and real. It is not about saying but being. Authentic leaders create their own examples that others follow. If others cannot see you as authentic leaders, you are not. Individual actions, belief and concerns in the surroundings determine authenticity. I try to be authentic, when I understand and do my responsibility in accountable manner. When I am not accountable to someone, I am not authentic.
As always you leave me with a golden nugget… ” authenticity is being human and real.” Simplicity and clarity are powerful gifts… thank you.
I’m thankful you continue adding value and extending the conversation.
Your posts always make me think. Thinking about what I believe helps me be more authentic. I better understand myself so I can better express my thoughts and impressions to others. Peter Block’s “Flawless Consulting” helps me be a better consultant. Peter says that a fundamental part of flawless consulting is being authentic and says being authentic with a client “means you put into words what you are experiencing with the client as you work.” I think this means that you come across as real and truthful. You don’t respond to a dilemma by trying to package it in a saleable way, you describe what is happening and how it affects you. You support understanding and build a relationship based on trust.
Thank you for sharing your insights.
I’m taking “Thinking about what I believe helps me be more authentic.” with me.
I focused on the past and on doing. You and Anne bring the believing component to bear on authenticity. It’s very helpful.
It’s a good though-provoking post. For me, authenticity comes with the fulfillment of assigned tasks with truthfulness. It adds to one’s confidence and the courage to work on bigger things by exercising powers based on the operational freedom given.
Always, look for factual information and data that help in conveying your messages with self-power and earning due respect from the recipient’s side.
Dear Dr. Asher,
You left two words that pack a punch in my book, “With truthfulness.” What a gift.
Put your arms in front of you and open them up. The left hand is your safe zone. It’s the place where you’re acting like someone else. Your right hand is how you’d like to show up if you really showed your true colors. Though, living here makes you feel uncomfortable. In fact, in your mind, people would think you’re loco if you lived in your right hand.
Left hand? People know you’re faking it. Inauthentic.
Go to the right hand and be authentic. Once you do, everything changes. Everything.
I see you support the idea that authenticity is about showing up as who you’d like to be.
Thanks for sharing your insights.
Thanks for the very thought provoking article. For me authenticity is rooted in integrity, which is tied to honesty and trust. I am being authentic when people can trust me to act as expected. This means they have to see me and my goals and ambitions clearly, in other words I have to be transparent.
Over the years my goals and ambitions have changed as I learn more about where my passions lie. I have to accept that who I was 10 years ago is not who I am now and I will be different still in another 10 years. Growth is part of life, so understanding who I am at this time and creating a vision of where I am going helps build my authenticity.
As well I agree with the idea that you must do not just be. One of my favorite sayings from a leadership series I attended is JFDI – Just Focus and Do It. Following that edict means that I am taking action to fulfill my goals, not just waiting for them to happen to me.
Thanks again for the great topic. It was timely for me to look at authenticity in my life.
I found this post confusing.
Marcus Buckingham is talking about an authenticity in the context of operating within your strengths. The whole focus of strengths based leadership is to know your strengths (based on how you operate, not the way you think) and then do not take on things that you are not strong in.
The issue of authenticity is a whole different ball of wax.
I do not see how your post connects with what Marcus Buckingham is talking about.
Perhaps I have the gift of confusion.
If authenticity is functioning within our strengths we come back to the challenge of knowing who we are and functioning in alignment with what we see.
I think we agree that we best find authenticity while we do things.
I see authenticity and functioning within our strengths as connected ideas.
Dan, FWIW, I see the connection you are making, and for some of my clients, I actually begin the discussion of life alignment with an analysis if their CHARACTER strengths.
I tell them that the Universe does not have a bad sense of humor… it would not play the cruel joke of giving us a certain set of character strengths, and then placing the path to authenticity and delivering value from WHO we are off in a different direction. LOL.
I loved the post and the comments so much so that I wafted in and out for a while before putting pen to paper.
There is of course no debate about the importance of coming from a space of authenticity. Easier said than done however. Circumstances and environment make us appear different to different folks as also in different roles. Who is to say which one is authentic. One may argue that we are at our authentic best when we remain anchored to our values. But do we not personify somewhat different heirarchy of values at different times and situations?
To me it all boils down to where we choose to land in the space between ” who we are” and “Who we want to be”. This again could be a pendulum and we may choose to or be forced to land at different points of this continuum under different circumstances.
Awhile back, I had deliberated on this aspect in my post, ” I AM…” and I take the opportunity to provide the link here for you and your readers.