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Creating Successful Leaders

Authenticity is all the rage these days. Businesses are adjusting their workplaces and daily operations in order to accommodate the demand for authentic relationships, business practices and job responsibilities that prospective employees and veteran workers alike are calling for.

I think this is great.  We all need authenticity in our lives, of which our work is a big part. What’s more, a business based on genuine relationships doesn’t just make for more fulfilled workers, it makes for better business.

However, I’ve noticed that some people seem to think that authenticity in their work relations means sharing everything to everyone, all the time. When working with clients, I’ve heard things like, “Margaret, they asked me what I really thought, and I knew it would hurt their feelings if I told them, but I was just being authentic!”

I think this person was trying to demonstrate how they were transparent and honest, even when it was uncomfortable. But being an open book all the time can be burdensome to those around you. You might be perceived as self-involved, even if you really aren’t. You may also lose potential confidantes if you tend to talk openly about other people. Your intention is surely noble, but the way it comes across may do more harm than good.

The mistake behind this approach to authenticity is the assumption that your most unfiltered gut feelings are your true self. While they certainly are part of what makes you you, remember that it is normal and natural to modify your behavior in different situations. This isn’t betraying who you really are, or wearing a fake version of yourself at all! We are complex beings, and have many layers of “self” that are each a part of us.

Authenticity, then, is striving to be your best self for each situation. To do this, you need:

1. Self-awareness. Be aware of your feelings and opinions, and take them seriously. You will have to stand up for your beliefs at some point, and it is often a very hard thing to do. But also be prepared to be wrong, to change your mind, to feel differently about something as time progresses. Part of self-awareness is knowing your own limits.

2. Presence. Be aware of your surroundings, engaged in the present situation before you. A present person is aware of others and their feelings, and is less inclined to become self-involved or unintentionally hurtful.

3. Tact. The 80-20 rule works wonders. Of all the thoughts you have, only about 20 percent of them need to be said. Another good rule: pause, sleep on it and deal with it tomorrow. If you feel the need to share something potentially hurtful, wait a day. More often than not, the issue resolves itself. If not, you’ll at least have a day’s worth of consideration in the bag and you’ll be better prepared to tactfully handle the situation.


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