“Don’t let the expectations and opinions of other people affect your decisions. It’s your life, not theirs.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
We live in a paradoxical world. On the one hand, we are more connected than ever before. Social media and our portable devices makes posting and reading content, liking, commenting, and sharing, easier and faster than ever. We know what our contacts are doing in real time and can “join them” virtually from the comfort of wherever we are and whatever we’re doing at that moment. Email and a host of messaging platforms also keep the virtual conversation going around the clock.
Yet, there is something about all of this connecting that leave so many of us wanting and unfulfilled.
Part of the issue, no doubt, is the superficiality of how we connect and engage. Though our networks are larger and more diverse than ever before, the quality of those connections is simply not there. So much of communication depends on the things that technology cannot replace, like nonverbals, proximity and the like.
But for many of us, a bigger issue with Networking 2.0 may be the inauthenticity and contrived realities that it fosters.
If your social feed is anything like mine, you are inundated daily by friends, connections and pseudo-celebrities pitching highlight reels of unmitigated successes. In response, we scramble to create our own picture-perfect realities, as if every day is the best day of our lives, with no setbacks or worries.
It’s like we are seeking to build relationships on golden quicksand, scurrying to build layer upon layer of new achievements before the foundation sinks in beneath us.
That certainly is not a way to create sustained, meaningful relationships.
Perhaps that is why we spend so much of our time on social media hunting down authenticity. I recently interviewed a rising social media star and best-selling author, Daniel Gefen, for my podcast. During our conversation, I asked him about how he has built his online presence. This is what he told me.
“Be real. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. Don’t think that that if you look successful, people will respect you more. … People root for (those) who are raw, honest and authentic. That’s what people crave … especially online where there’s so much fake. There are so many people trying to … be someone they’re not like and we smell it a mile away.”
While authenticity is important everywhere, it is perhaps most significant for leaders to demonstrate.
Why? Because authenticity breeds trust, which is a crucial element in the workplace. Leaders who demonstrate integrity and character command our support and fidelity. We are much likelier to go the extra mile and stand by them regardless of circumstance. In contrast, the absence of trust can make it very difficult for leaders to gain support.
While leadership is often presented as a matter of giving to and serving others, authenticity focuses the leader first on self-development. It requires leaders to be on a journey to uncover their inner values, strengths, passion and vision. When they do this, they develop a “true north” inner compass that can guide them in everyday life and when things start to become particularly sticky. It also builds trust in the leader, as others begin to see them as focused, disciplined, believable and dependable.
(Of course, once leaders have developed their authenticity, they are better suited to give to and serve others. But you can’t give what you don’t have.)
With trust in leaders at all-time lows, it’s time to consider how personal authenticity can become your greatest leadership asset.
What are the key qualities of authentic leaders?
Here are some strategies to help build your authenticity.
Being authentic as a leader is hard work. No one can be truly authentic all the time; everyone will say and do things they will come to regret. The key is to make authenticity a priority to work toward and then to have the self-awareness to recognize these times and listen to close colleagues who point them out.
Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is an executive coach and president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his new leadership book, “Becoming the New Boss.” Read his blog, and listen to his leadership podcast.
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Originally published at smartbrief.com