Authenticity: how real can you really be?

Posted December 13, 2012 in Latest News & Insights

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” said Ralph Waldo Emerson. But what if being yourself is a career limiting move? How much of yourself is it smart to show at work? These and other questions were debated and discussed at our final PowerRoundtable of 2012 when Simon Jennings, President, Gesca Media Sales-Toronto; Pam Laycock, SVP, Corporate Strategy and Development, Torstar Corporation; and, Rosemarie McClean, SVP, Members’ Services, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan joined our podium to share their ideas and perspectives on this hot topic. Here are some of the highlights:

Thoughts on authenticity in general… what is it exactly?

  • Staying true to what you believe in and act in accordance to your beliefs.
  • Take on new challenges, but you still have to be true to yourself. You can’t chameleon yourself to an environment if you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin.
  • When you are a young leader, you get guidance, which might not always be right. If something doesn’t feel right to you… don’t do it.
  • Being authentic means being consistent.

How can you tell if someone is being inauthentic? And why is it such a big deal?

  • When you don’t act authentically, you come across as being phony. People won’t know if they can truly trust you… and nobody wants to follow a leader they can’t trust. Leaders are always being watched, so your actions need to align with your words.
  • You cannot get 100% out of someone who is being inauthentic. You always feel that there’s something they’re holding back.

But what about politics? Don’t we need to sometimes “act” a certain way to get ahead?

  • Politics aren’t always negative … often they are needed to get things done. As a leader, you do have to understand how to play the game in order to get to the finish line.
  • The key is not to compromise who you are and to make sure that the politics are for the greater good vs. advancing your own personal agenda.

Authenticity starts with you.

  • As an executive, you can influence the culture. In fact, it is your responsibility to shape culture. Leaders have to think how their behaviours will impact employees and model the way.
  • Leaders have the responsibility to drive that authenticity and to call out colleagues who aren’t walking the talk. This takes courage!
  • Know your own strengths and what type of corporate culture will allow you to be successful. Pay attention to the culture created by the senior leadership team. Trying to change a corporate culture by yourself will be a futile exercise, so make sure the fit really is there…don’t get deluded by your own abilities.
  • Balance your outside and inside persona otherwise you’ll come across as fake.
  • People are always watching on – looking for consistency, openness.
  • You cannot control your environment – you can only control your impact. So do your work and share your value.

Thanks to Simon, Rosemarie and Pam for sharing their opinions with our group and to all our members who came out and participated. We look forward to more high impact programs and discussions in 2013. If you have a topic or would like to be a speaker, feel free to send us an email or leave some suggestions in the comments.

Happy leading!


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