- On July 27, 2017
“That’s who I am. They will just have to learn to deal with it.”
That was the self-justification of a manager proclaiming her ‘authenticity’ and leaving a trail of employees reeling and ducking for cover. This person voiced whatever came to her mind, often with hurtful impact. That was ‘being real’ in her view.
At a leadership event a few months ago, a panel of five women CEOs was asked the one thing they felt contributed most to achieving and succeeding in the CEO position. Unanimously the answer was ‘authenticity.’
Their definition and the unfiltered manager’s perception of authenticity were two totally different things.
So, that got me thinking: What does Authenticity look like?
Last week, Jim Vance, a very popular and respected anchor on Washington DC news for decades, passed away. I never met the man in-person, yet I felt a huge loss like a trusted friend was gone. The one word consistently used to define him, by colleagues and competitors alike—Authenticity.
“Who I am…deal with it” is not authenticity. That’s a chip-on-your-shoulder, a dare. That’s being a punk, a bully, a narcissist.
The things people say about Jim Vance capture the essence of what Authenticity looks like. They talk about how grounded he was in his own self-awareness and what that did to have such a positive impact on others.
The first requirement for authenticity is working on our own self-awareness and self-acceptance.
From my own personal experience, being self-aware and self-accepting is far easier said than done. There is a balance between embracing who we are–the strengths, the flaws–and striving to always learn, grow, and improve. You can’t have the open mindset to do the latter, if you don’t have a solid grasp on the former.
Awareness and acceptance gives us the fortitude to show our vulnerability. To show up without the mask, without the veneer of perfection or righteousness. The challenge is, of course, it’s a competitive world and we fear that if we show up with any nicks in the armor, maybe we’ll be brought down. That’s why self-acceptance gives us confidence to share with others that we are trying to be better.
The second piece of authenticity is consciousness of our impact on others.
People said Jim Vance made you feel like you were the most important person in the room, even if he just met you and even if you were just a Joe on the street. He was known for never shying away from offering his opinion on an issue personally important to him, and at the same time making you feel totally heard, understood, and respected in yours. He was a recovering addict and willingly shared his vulnerability, knowing that his struggle would perhaps help others going through the same thing.
What am I taking away from my brief study of Authenticity?
Most of all, I’m learning that Authenticity has a lot to do with Courage—courage to understand and accept myself, courage to strive, and courage to use what I’ve learned to raise others up.
What does Authenticity look like for you?
Photo credit: Shutterstock