Is Authenticity A Buzz Word?

It is one of the soft skills you can't neglect. In all sort of channel there is a lot's to talk about: the technical skills you need to lead your teams, your company, your career too. But there are tones of skills that no school can teach you, that really do help you to grow as a leader, but also as an individual. Skills that some call "life-skills". Master these skills early, mastering them all will always benefit you.

It is one of the soft skills you can’t neglect. In all sort of channel there is a lot to talk about:  the technical skills you need to lead your teams, your company, your career too. But there are tons of skills that no school can teach you, that really do help you to grow as a leader, but also as an individual. Skills that some call “life-skills”. Master these skills early, mastering them all will always benefit you.

Developing as a leader implies stepping-up, this is a given. Furthermore this means asking yourself a question: What is my comfort zone? It is indisputably preferable to develop outside of your comfort zone. This is where the authenticity paradox begins.

Being authentic means not being a copy of someone else.  Therefore the notion of being authentic implies starting a journey in discovering your true-self. This examination will go through your values, your uncertainties and the coherence between the “feel” and the “do”. A too rigid definition of authenticity though can get in the way of your learning process.

This skill that is authenticity is nowadays squandered, a buzz word in fact. Over the last decade it has become the gold standard, denoted as the leadership skill to have! You have to be yourself, people have to believe in you … which is a limited perspective of the authenticity intent, logically leading to limit yourself as an individual.

The only way we grow as leaders is by stretching the limits of who we are

How many roles and changes in our careers allow us to continue to do things as we always did? This is somehow “comfort zone”. Whether you plan a role transition or a change of employer, the challenge that presents itself is to approach a different problematic or push you to another method that will open a new horizon.

It sounds much more appropriate in 2015 to embrace an “adaptively authentic style that lets us experiment with different leadership approaches” says Herminia Ibarra  (author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader).

My understanding of this statement is that we need to experiment by changing our behaviour and tactics that we use to influence others. This ultimately will help improving as a leader. What I meant earlier by “which role allow us to do the same as we always did” finds a resonance.

A person leading a small local multi-disciplinary team, will not lead a large globally dispersed technical team with the same skills. Or changing environment (like I did moving to New Bamboo from Cognizant Technology Solutions) from and to a very different culture. That means experimentations will be necessary to adapt in an evolving environment.

Put in simple terms: you try one thing, it doesn’t work, then try something else. That’s not being inauthentic, but being systematic at experimenting.

Wait a minute … What if it feel that I am not true to myself?

As per the definition, going outside of our comfort zone means we will have to figure out how to do things in a way we haven’t done before. This, the role on the paper being the same or not. If your role definition changes it means adaptation.

I had to figure out: how to make it work and then become comfortable.

This situation presented itself to me while working at Novartis, my job description changed from Applications Service Manager to Business Information Manager. Suddenly I was not the person ensuring that the service for a domain of applications was delivered as expected (and improved), I was now working with a full branch of businesses identifying their technology needs versus their discipline, our company strategy and our budgets. A drastic change that led me to experiment, acquire new skills and change my working identity. I had to figure out: how to make it work and then become comfortable.

That’s the adaptive authenticity, like Herminia points out, experimenting is not being fake. It’s about finding your true self without having a foot in the past while remembering your leadership identity can and should change with challenges. It’s also about figuring out how to deal with these evolving challenges of our careers, stretching our limits and making ourselves uncomfortable.

For your reference the book of Herminia Ibarra, “Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader,” available January 20th 2015. It’s already on my wish list.

In "Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader," Herminia Ibarra offers advice to help you:  Redefine your job in order to make more strategic contributions, Diversify your network so that you connect to, and learn from, a bigger range of stakeholders ...
In “Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader,” Herminia Ibarra offers advice to help you: Redefine your job in order to make more strategic contributions, Diversify your network so that you connect to, and learn from, a bigger range of stakeholders …