Recently I ran across a very interesting question:
Authenticity — what does it mean to you? Do you believe it exists as a central core characteristic? Is it a construct of the modern management environment? Does it have a relevance or should we be more concerned about commercial metrics, performance and the like?
Authenticity is completely neutral. It is neither good nor bad and being an authentic jerk doesn’t make you better because are being authentic.However, being ‘authentic’ is a positive character trait, although we may not like the authentic behavior we see in others or ourselves.What does that mean? Too often in management and leadership today we see the thin veneer that people have created around themselves to protect themselves from weakness, perceived or real.
Authenticity DOES have a place in modern management, but falls under the difficult to measure arena like directly measuring trust. Very difficult to do.
Additionally, it is difficult to ascertain if someone is being ‘authentic’ or simply showing you that same veneer.
Forgive me for being a little bit self-promoting, but an example may work well here. We have several workshops and retreats that are designed to bring out that authentic behavior. They are all experiential in nature because we get to see, not what we think we do, but we REALLY do.For some groups we take them sailing. Before we go out we ask them to remove anything valuable and put them into a zip lock bag – watches, IPhones, Blackberrys (yes there are some devoted fans out there), basically anything that could get damaged by saltwater.We staple the zip lock bags shut and then put them into a red dry bag and take them with us onto the boat.After learning man overboard drills the group gets a little cocky and is feeling pretty good.
I tell them I am now simply here for safety’s sake, to prevent them from harming themselves or someone else and then say,
”Remember all the stuff you put into the dry bag” and hold the bag in the air and continue, “I hope you were paying attention to the man overboard drills because your stuff is now overboard,” and throw the bag into the water.
Here is an opportunity for authentic behavior. What do we REALLY do in crisis or stress? Versus how we THINK we respond.
That veneer doesn’t crack, it shatters.
It does not matter what happens in response to the crisis, it is the process we are interested in:
* How do you treat each other?
* How well do you communicate?
* What did the leadership look like?
* Did the group take time to plan?
* The list goes on…
Once you get used to being authentic, versus shining that veneer, the more you want to BE authentic.
Your ‘FIMAGE’, or fear of image, goes down and you are happy to have people take you as you really are.
Back to modern management.
I think you will find that teams at all levels are more successful if they are authentic with each other. There is a high degree of trust – makes sense – and very little pre-tense. Ego is more easily removed in crisis and the situation is handled.
Now, how relevant or important it is depends upon your focus.
But is it important? I think so. And not because it is part of some pyramid model of management or because someone has said it is.
Authenticity is important because it makes MY life better.
And in the end, end, end, what else really matters?