"Authenticity is a quality others must attribute to you. No leader can look into a mirror and say, 'I am authentic.'" (Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership, HBR, 2005)
Authenticity seems to be increasingly difficult in the age of:
Excessive Image Management.
In a brilliant little book that is now several years old (The Trouble With Paris), Mark Sayers talked about the hyper-reality of our age. Included in that hyper-reality is out need to make ourselves look better, smarter, stronger, more skilled, more successful, more attractive, more _____(fill in the blank) than we really are. And the tools of Image Management are more prevalent than ever.
So what about authenticity . . . which according to a number of writers, is one of the deep longings of the emerging culture. It wants authenticity. Yet it lives in the more image spinning season of human history.
Don't we usually assume that our leaders are not telling us the truth, that they are giving us the run around, that they are just projecting an image, simply placating us with tired truisms . . . ?
They know who they truly are.
They know who God is calling them to be.
They are committed to covering the distance between those realities.
They practice transparency and vulnerability (wisely of course - see tomorrow's post).
They don't over promise and under-deliver (one of the banes of our age among leaders).
They are congruent in what they say and how they live (they walk their talk).
They are consistent which means they sustain over time all the above.
And it takes time. Authentic leadership is not built in a week or a month. It is the slow, progressive, steady accumulation that takes place with daily attentiveness to these matters.
Wouldn't it be nice if leaders came with a "Certificate of Authenticity"?
In lieu of having such a certificate, you are left with the hard work of becoming authentic.
Practice this long enough and slowly, those who follow you will be the ones to say - "She/he is an authentic leader we trust."