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Being Authentic

Are you being real?

Are you authentic?

Be Authentic

Be Authentic has been a buzzword in business for several years now.

Promoters of this phrase are sure that being authentic “will set you above the competition,” “allow you to be the person you truly want to be,” and “allow you to let go of other’s opinion of you and their ideas about what you should be doing with your life.”

Of course, those quotes are simple promotions that don’t really explain what it means to be authentic, let alone justify their claims.

Being Authentic

The word authentic means genuine, real, or representing one’s true nature or beliefs.

Interestingly, Fast Company surveyed 12,000 individuals and asked them to post their definition of an authentic brand.  One response was, “An authentic company owns up to their mistakes and is honest with customers.  Doesn’t sugar coat anything or sweep problems under the rug.”

Do you see the dichotomy in the business use of the word authentic?

On the one hand, it means being honest and genuine to who you are.

On the other hand, we are to be true to the values that your business declares as part of its core principles.

The problem is often those two principles conflict.

Have you heard the phrase “fake it until you make it”?

Most leaders carefully monitor their words and behaviors to be attuned to their audiences.  They do so because they are sensitive to the impact their words and actions have on others, not because they are “messaging” the right talking points.

As a small business leader and entrepreneur, you do not get the luxury of speaking exactly what is on your mind.  The option of revealing your honest feelings is not available to you when leading others.

Don’t Be Authentic

Authenticity seems to be premised in the crazy idea that we are somehow innately good.  And in being authentic we are somehow peeling back the layers to expose that innate goodness.

But unfortunately, most of us have many natural impulses and instincts which need to be restrained and rooted out.  We need to constantly exercise self-control so that life is livable for those around us.

We are all flawed individuals, flawed from the day we were born.  We have attitudes and appetites that in no way need expressing but need restraining.  In his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde understood this.

Unfortunately, many leaders are entirely wrapped up in themselves.  They do what they want regardless of the impact on others.  To be true to themselves, everyone else has to live with the consequences.

Being a Better Leader

How can you be a better leader and still be “real?”

  • Identify Your and Your Business Core Values – You can’t be authentic if you don’t know your core values, so taking some time to dig deep and identify them is well worth your time.
  • Be True to Those Values – Once you’ve identified your values, you need to be true to them. Seth Godin said, “Authentic means doing what you promise.”
  • Be Accountable – You need to let your circle of influence call you out when you are inauthentic.
  • Continue Your Self-Improvement Journey – Authentic people—and businesses—understand this and therefore strive to make themselves and their products and services better.

The Bible

Authentic is what we should be.

Hypocrisy, pretensions, and other deceitful ways of living are not part of the Christian life.

For us, this means to live in the light.  Ephesians 5:8-12 says,

for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.  11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.

The light is God’s Word, and more specifically, the truth that His Word exposes in us.

As stated above, the Apostle Paul described to the Ephesians the standards of the conduct God requires of those who have come to faith in Jesus Christ.

And those same standards are for us today.

If we want to be authentic as business leaders, the Word of God provides all the instructions we need.  And then make sure your authentic nature mirrors your business.