In the digital age, it's easy to present a persona online that follows a carefully crafted narrative. That story line may be true or have elements of truth. We can be whomever we want online. I know people who appear online to have it all figured out, but offline are a hot mess. The converse it true, too: people online who appear kind and genuine are indeed both.
Being one's self has become a pursuit of integrity and maintaining authenticity.
Admittedly, I hate the word authentic. It's become clich. And like all clichs, they become one due to overuse and misunderstanding. Authenticity, according to author and management psychologist Karissa Thacker, is "key to reaching your external dreams and achieving internal well-being.... [it] is the process of inventing yourself." So, there's value in the term, but we need a different descriptor.
A different term for authentic is trustworthy. A trustworthy leader is someone whom you can rely on to be honest and truthful.
Being a trustworthy leader certainly comes with some challenges, speaking honestly in difficult situations, for example. But the benefits outweigh the difficulties.
Improves your well-being/flourishing. It takes a decent amount of energy to be someone you're not: the deceit; the energy to maintain a facade and connect make believe dots drains one's well-being. Thacker says in her book The Art of Authenticity, "The authentic are brave enough to be themselves despite all of the fear within as well as all of the fear in the atmosphere." When you stand strong in who you are, you build more meaningful relationships. You do work that is strongly aligned with your skills and strengths. These are positive contributors to your sense of well-being.
Strengthens your relationships. When we have the support of others, we have a greater shot at being successful. We need the emotional support of others to pursue goals that stretch us. Emotional support is easier to come by when we have strong relationships. Strong relationships are built on respect and belief in the other person. Trustworthiness helps strengthen both of these relationship essentials.
Strengthens your leadership. Competent leaders use influence to affect change and motivate people. Amy Cuddy explains that "the best way to gain influence is to combine warmth and strength." Trustworthiness increases these two factors essential to great leaders.
Sharpens your self-awareness. Today's leaders need to recognize their limits, strengths, and weaknesses. Thacker explains that balanced processing helps a leader become more self-aware through "cognitive, emotional, and behavioral skill." It allows you to view yourself, others, and make sense of situations with less personal bias. When we can deepen our sense of self by being more aware, we make room for greater clarity of what we can bring to a team, problem, or even a relationship.
Strengthens your resolve in times of doubt. With a sharpened sense of self-awareness, trustworthy leaders can more easily navigate the situations that cause doubt. Doubt isn't completely unavoidable. Authentic leaders can rely on their consistent character to boost their resolve during difficult times.
Broadens your mind. Thacker writes that authentic leaders are truth-seekers. The pursuit of the truth comes with a broadened understanding of people and the context that influences them. Seeking the truth deepens your understanding of what is and what isn't reality.
Increases your "appropriateness transparency." Being yourself doesn't' give you the license to destroy people with the truth: "I'm just being honest!" Whether in your personal life or your professional one, transparency must be used to help someone and the business. It shouldn't be used to destroy a person's confidence or diminish their potential.
Aligns your behaviors with your values. Trustworthy leaders constantly seek insights into their own self-awareness, this includes knowing their personal values. Knowing your values helps you be more consistent in the way you lead. Consistency breeds trust.
Increases your comfort in recognizing your weaknesses. Psychologist Todd Kashdan wrote in The Upside of Your Dark Side, "As people become better able to satisfy their desire for comfort, they narrow their range of experiences and fall out of practice navigating life's hardships." In essence Kashdan, along with his co-author, Robert Biswas-Diener, highlight the importance of embracing discomfort. It takes a truth-seeking leader to embrace getting comfortable with weaknesses. It's the only way forward to address and minimize their influence on performance.
Keeps your ego in check. In Ryan Holiday's upcoming book, Ego is the Enemy, he writes about how to keep success from going to your head. Misdirected ambition, pride, or even believing your own hype can trick you into behaving in ways that alienate others and undermines valuable relationships. As a trustworthy leader, use the dark side of these realities of life to keep your ego in check.
While it takes constant, conscious choices to be trustworthy, the 10 benefits illustrate its usefulness. The workplace today can use more leaders willing to be themselves. What's more, we can use more leaders who act in ways that develop mutually beneficial outcomes for both the organization and its people.