Think about when you were a child. You knew exactly who you were, and you knew exactly what you wanted. You had concrete answers to any question regarding your likes and dislikes. You were so adamant about your favorite color, your least favorite food and so on. You came to all these decisions through a unique process of exploration.
In their early years children are knowledge seekers, questioning everything in their view while exhibiting little skepticism. They practice individuality way better than we do. When we grow and we start developing a sense of awareness, that's when self consciousness comes into play. Our favourite color stops being whatever it was and starts being whatever we think will help us fit in best. With time, our sense of individuality becomes muddled, leading to a world of confusion. When you lose that totally unique sense of self, you lose your bearings on this earth.
As human beings, we naturally yearn for love, connection and acceptance but often times we are misled in the means to create that. Authenticity is one of the most powerful tools we have, which can be applied both in personal relationships and in business. Unfortunately many of us behave in a manner that we believe will bring us a sense of intimacy with others – failing to recognize that intimacy doesn’t grow by force and that connections can only be forged when creating the right climate for them.
Human interactions are a form of energy exchange – the mysteries of which are still very difficult to understand. However, without a doubt, we can all sense one another’s energy during an interaction or a conversation and can therefore sense the genuinity of the person we are interacting with or lack of it. The energy you feel from an authentic person, or the one you radiate by being an authentic person is simply magnetic.
Starting with personal relationships, whether friendships, family or romantic partners, being authentic is easier said than done. It requires us to be in tune with our actual felt experiences. This means accepting how we are feeling, and genuinely communicating it to others. Instead of protecting ourselves, we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable around the person that we want to get close to. This of course starts with a process of self awareness and self compassion. Once you truly know yourself and accept and love yourself the way you are, you can then communicate your authentic experience in a sensitive and respectful manner.
Moving on to a business setting, and more specifically leadership, there have been various studies conducted that prove the effect of authentic leadership (authentic leadership occurs when individuals enact their true selves in their role as a leader.) Not only does it impact performance, it also has a role in influencing factors such as creativity.
In an article published by Forbes in April 2017, Kevin Cashman discusses “Ten Authentic Leadership Practices”. He defines authenticity as follows – “Based on our experience coaching thousands of leaders globally over the years, we define authenticity as the continuous process of building self-awareness of our whole person, as well as being transparent with others about our whole person, both strengths and limitations. As a result, more often than not, the authentic leader’s beliefs, values, principles, and behaviors tend to line up. Commonly referred to as “walking the talk,” authenticity also means being your talk at a very deep level.” (1)
He discusses the concept of authenticity with various successful CEO’s, one of them being David MacLennan, Chairman and CEO of Cargill, one of the world’s largest private companies with $107 billion in annual revenue. He also shares David’s 10 key authenticity practices:
1. Be comfortable in your own skin; don't ever try to fake realness.
2. Never take yourself too seriously; it is not usually about you.
3. Share stories of personal failure, vulnerability, and learning. Authenticity shows the full picture of who you are.
4. Don't believe your own press and/or focus too much on your accomplishments. Remember: you really are the 'kid inside' just trying to do your best.
5. Surround yourself with people who will give you feedback. I was once told, "You look tired and you need a haircut." Authenticity is both a pragmatic and profound gift.
6. Earn the right to be trusted by being courageously truthful. Authenticity multiplies trust with all those it touches.
7. Encourage diversity and encourage everyone to bring the best in themselves to work. Authenticity is inclusive.
8. Narrow the gap between your work self and your private/home self. Authenticity is one person everywhere, in all situations.
9. Stay humble to learn and stay confident to serve. Authentic leaders know when to be bold, and when to be a learner.
10. Dedicate yourself to purpose-driven service. Authenticity is all about service to all levels, to all stakeholders and in all moments of leadership.
We can all benefit from his words and start applying these concepts in both our personal and business relationships. So try it out, and watch the magic unfold – the more you are open, vulnerable and honest with others, the more people will open up to you, eventually forming deeper, more real and meaningful relationships.
I leave you with this wonderful Tedx Talk by Caroline McHugh titled “The art of being yourself.”(2)
It’s truly inspirational and will give you the courage and further understanding towards kickstarting your way to a more authentic life experience.
1. “Ten Authentic Leadership Practices” by Kevin Cashman. April 24, 2017, Forbes.
2. “The art of being yourself” by Caroline McHigh. Tedx.