As a leader, how do I reconcile the need to be authentic with the concept that “perception is reality”?
Recently I witnessed a really messed-up situation. Someone I respect and admire very much is being punished because a person in the community had a certain perception of my friend’s actions. I saw my friend’s actions as noble. Honest. Authentic. But someone saw it differently. Someone who has no idea of the depth and breadth of my friend’s positive impact on her community.
So I’m stuck. Authenticity vs. Faking It To Fit In. “Being real” vs. “Attempting to execute a favorable impression.”
Well… what IS authentic leadership? And how do I get it?
“Avolio et al. (2004) defined authentic leaders as those individuals who are deeply aware of how they think and behave and are perceived by others as being aware of their own and others’ values/moral perspective, knowledge, and strength; aware of the context in which they operate; and who are confident, hopeful, optimistic, resilient, and high on moral character.” (Karin Klenke, 2007. Authentic Leadership: A Self, Leader, and Spiritual Identity Perspective. Leadership Development Institute (LDI) International)
I think that describes my friend very well. Yet she’s paying a price for speaking up.
Is this my idealistic bubble being popped? You know… the one that protects my belief that if I’m courageous, honest, hard-working, and helpful, I won’t get thrown under the bus?
As a musician and composer, of course I can see that working hard doesn’t guarantee an increase in music-based profits. Nor does having talent, skill, nor connections. (Though they help.)
But the payoff to being real in one’s music is that you get to be real. Maybe it’s the same for authentic leadership? Maybe there’s no distinction?