I recently interviewed a young woman for a job opening. While I liked her, I felt like I wasn’t connecting with her. It seemed like she was hiding behind a false sense of confidence and answers she thought I’d find impressive. So, I decided to get real with her.
“I can’t figure you out,” I said, to which she immediately responded, “Well, I’m scared to death and I’m intimidated!”
My reply might sound like something your mother might tell you. I told her that she should stop trying to interview as if she were someone else. She needed to be herself. I wasn’t trying to understand her skills; I can teach her how to do the job. I was trying to find out who she was as a person because I’m trying to find the right person to join our team.
This interaction reminded me of the importance of being authentic. Authenticity is probably one of the most appealing traits of a leader, yet it’s a talent seldom taught in Management 101 training, and most leaders seldom contemplate its application as they rush through the day leading their team.
Your authenticity plays a bigger part of another person’s decision to follow you than you realize. When talking to my oldest daughter (a political science whiz) about the presidential election, she surprised me when she said that she and her peers heavily consider the candidate’s authenticity when selecting who they’ll support. Yes, they are very educated on where the candidate stands on issues, but if the candidate comes across as disingenuous, they’ll look for the next closest candidate match.
Now, allow me to turn the tables and shine the light on all of us. Some synonyms for authenticity include being real, genuine, valid, true, bona fide, reliable, dependable, realistic, accurate, and faithful. Good grief those are amazing words to describe a leader! Would others use these words to describe your leadership?
As a leader, I realize that my authenticity isn’t just important to my people; it’s important for my own sanity! Why in the world would I want to be anything other than myself? That’s just too confusing and too exhausting! It’s easier to just be me, so I’m not going to waste my time and energy trying to be anything else.
Being authentic is a trait we should all strive to possess. The most productive and powerful workplace cultures are those that create a safe environment where everyone on the team can be exactly who they are.