What It Means to Be Authentic
To be authentic means that you resist the pressure to conform to others’ expectations of behavior. You are true to your own values and personality. You are self-aware and honest with yourself. You accept responsibility for your actions which align with your values and ideals. This is what you want to be because authentic leaders engage employees.
You are genuine, the real deal. In essence, what you see is what you get.
When Authenticity Is Suppressed
What happens in the workplace when authenticity is pressured to give way to conformity? One study discussed in our new manager training found that about 33% of U.S. employees feel pressed to conform to the values of their workplace — even when those values differ from their own.
Presumably, employees fear losing opportunities for promotion if they speak up or stand out because they are different. The result for the individual employee that does not fit in can be heightened levels of stress, decreased engagement, and an increased risk of leaving the company.
As you can imagine, high performing companies are good at hiring, developing, engaging, and retaining employees who fit the desired corporate culture.
When Authenticity Is Valued
As you might also expect, when employees are in sync with the corporate culture AND authenticity is valued, everyone benefits. When employees can bring their true selves into the workplace, they feel more confident and engaged than their counterparts.
Authentic leaders know that trust is the cornerstone of strong relationships. Authentic leaders earn the trust of their followers when they consistently do what they say they will do, accept responsibility for their actions, and hold themselves and their employees accountable. Authentic leaders tell the truth and are not afraid of difficult conversations.
Because of this, those who work for authentic leaders find that:
- Conversations are more open, productive, and spur more innovation
- Continuous learning is encouraged and supported
- They are more engaged and give more discretionary effort
- Employee engagement action plans are implemented
The Bottom Line
Authenticity requires that you identify what matters to you and integrate those values into all aspects of your life. As a leader, are you and your team clear on the values and norms required to succeed?
To learn more about how authentic leaders engage employees, download How to Build Higher Levels of Trust in Leaders