When we at Xavier think about authenticity, we see it as consciously coming to terms with being in a material world facing external forces, pressures and influences that challenge us to behave in ways that seem socially or politically acceptable. Authenticity, then is the degree to which we are true to our own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures. We believe that when you are able to be true to yourself – almost no matter what – our employees see this as being honest, predictable, worthy of trust and respect. Employees react to our authenticity, with a higher level of commitment.
The following link is from a recent NY Times article talking about how politicians, celebrities, and other people in the public eye, are all scrambling to position themselves as “authentic”.
Everyone from Michelle Bachmann, to Hillary Rodham Clinton, to Rick Santorum to Pope Benedict, to Katie Couric all have been recently quoted in the press describing themselves as “real people” or “authentic”. I imagine some social researchers and media consultants have polled on this topic and concluded we would all like to see authenticity in our leaders.
And so, “authenticity” has become one of the new pop culture buzz words. Sadly, its’ over (and improper) use subvert the very meaning of the word.
Here is one example from the Times article, where they describe: “Discussing his new daytime television show, Anderson Cooper told The Vancouver Sun that ‘in everything I’ve done, I’ve always tried to just be authentic and real.”
The entire notion of that statement shows a lack of connection with what we think the word means. If you have to TRY to be authentic, you aren’t. Authenticity comes when you are just being true to yourself – without even trying.
Often we do not feel able to be ourselves. Our need to be accepted runs deep in us (from our early experiences in grade school). We almost always soften our edges, and compromise our inner feelings in the spirit of teamwork, or to advance our standing within our chosen organization. Unfortunately, there is no good guidebook that tells us how much compromising is too much. But from direct observations of many people my XLC colleagues have coached, it seems obvious that compromising ourselves can lead to frustration at work, resentment, stress, and even a diminishment of personal health.
It is probably helpful to periodically take stock of this situation in your own life – and ask yourself if you are managing the balance well. Do you know where that line is that you do not wish to cross? If you looked behind you, would you see it in the distance? One of our other posts The Power Of Your Past, also talks about this dichotomy and where you might start looking to gain a deeper self-understanding.