Friday, February 4, 2011
Picture this: ‘friend-for-rent’ in Japan. BBC's Tokyo correspondent Roland Buerk investigated Japan's "rent a friend" service sector. It seems that 10 agencies are renting out fake partners, best men, friends, and colleagues. Goal: preventing inconvenient blushes and shameful embarrassments at social functions. Or imagine this: the Chinese authorities are considering a law to ensure children take care of their elderly parents. And what about reputation managers and spin doctors? Let me indulge in one more: hunting for a maximum amount of twitter followers or facebook connections.
It’s easy to label these examples as non-authentic. But let’s dissect the concept a little. According to Webster authenticity means conforming to or based on fact, conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features, or not false or imitation but real or actual. But what is real or actual? We all know that authenticity just like many other concepts can mean very different things to different people. Pre-conceived notions, upbringing, major life experiences, values… I won’t bore you any further in an attempt to list all factors that contribute to how we view and define authenticity. Most of us do agree that authenticity is a valuable quality. However, in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review called “Authentic Leadership Can Be Bad Leadership” by Deborah Gruenfeld and Lauren Zander the authors assert that placing value on being authentic has become an excuse for bad behavior among executives. This is not what I see, hear, and witness nor what I encounter in my “Leadership Conversations” with leaders of many types of organizations in the Twin Cities area. So not counting exceptions I wholeheartedly have to disagree with the authors.
My take on authenticity. I don’t think it’s very complicated nor do I believe many people hide behind the excuse of authenticity to justify bad behaviors. Authenticity is actually very simple, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. Being authentic means being truthful, being connected, showing your true self (no, not always or everywhere), and above all, it’s value based. Knowing your values, believing in your values, living your values. If others perceive you to be authentic you will be perceived as trustworthy, aligned with your core beliefs and values, connected, and dependable. Are you?