How Do We Define Authenticity in Leadership?
Most people would agree that authentic leadership is a good thing. But what does it mean? What qualities do authentic leaders possess that set them apart from other leaders? Wikipedia provides many different interpretations of authenticity including this passage:
“Authenticity is something to be pursued as a goal intrinsic to “the good life.” And yet it is often described as an intrinsically difficult state to achieve, due in part to social pressures to live inauthentically, and in part due to a person’s own character. It is also described as a revelatory state, where one perceives oneself, other people, and sometimes even things, in a radically new way. Some writers argue that authenticity also requires self-knowledge, and that it alters a person’s relationships with other people. Authenticity also carries with it its own set of moral obligations.” Wikipedia, Authenticity
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes authenticity as both personal and social: “The prevailing view seems to have been that, by turning inward and accessing the “true” self, one is simultaneously led towards a deeper engagement with the social world. This is why Taylor (1989: 419–455) describes the trajectory of the project of authenticity is ‘inward and upward’.”
What Are Its Inner and Outer Dimensions?
I believe that the following 14 personal, interpersonal and societal dimensions together form what we think of as authenticity. They involve overcoming the internal and external barriers to living an intentional, aware and ethical life. See if you agree.
Has High Ethical Standards
Fully Present/Aware of Reality
True to One’s Self
Aligned in Thought, Word and Deed (Has Integrity)
Committed to Growth and Learning
Fully Respectful and Inclusive
Cares About Others
Has An Identified Life Purpose or Calling
Reaches Individual Potential in Ways That Benefit Society
Discovering our authentic selves often involves venturing into areas where we are not a bit comfortable, but where we believe we can find meaning in our work and lives. As Herminia Ibarra wrote in her article Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership (HBR, January 2015) “The only way we grow as leaders is by stretching the limits of who we are—doing new things that make us uncomfortable but that teach us through direct experience who we want to become.”
Are you leading through all 7 Lenses?
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