Posted by: kelseyburden10 | March 12, 2014

Authenticity

I wanted to write my blog this week on authenticity. I’m not sure what it is about authenticity but I think it’s a really interesting topic. There is so much gray space when it comes to being authentic and wearing masks; it’s a hard line to draw. In another one of my classes I brought up authenticity and my teacher thought about it and said it depends on how you define authentic. Which got me to thinking more about it and how do we define it? How strict of a line does authenticity have to be? So I did what any college kid would do and went looking through the Internet and found a great article that helped me understand a little more about authenticity.

http://www.idaabbott.com/publications/newsletter/issue-34/women-leaders-and-dilemma-authenticity

It’s a fairly long article, so I’ll just talk about some of my favorite parts:

I thought this was a great definition of authenticity: “Authenticity can be best understood as acting in accordance with your core values and sense of purpose. When you understand what is most important to you and what you want to accomplish, you can be more effective in accomplishing your own and collective goals. To be authentic, you must act consistently with your personal values, but to get results as a leader, you must adapt your style and approach to the situations and people at hand.”

This can be extremely hard for women to do, especially some of the women we interviewed in a masculine job. But I thought this definition was good because it covers not only acting according to what is important to you, but also mentions the fact that being authentic does not mean unchanging. You can be authentic and have enough emotional intelligence to understand a situation and alter how you interact with people. That was one thing we discussed during my interview; she mentioned how she changes depending on whom she is talking to, and I asked if she felt that made her less authentic, and she did not think so at all. She felt like it just made her a good leader, knowing how to act around different people.

This article also mentions how to build authenticity. “The key to developing an authentic leadership identity is to find a spectrum of styles that feel right for you and help you get your work done. In order for a style to “feel right,” it needs to be consistent with your core values and further your ability to accomplish your work and career objectives. Then you can make career and behavior choices that support those values. Being clear about your values also allows you to be creative in the choices you make. Your choices may take you out of your comfort zone and make you feel insecure. But they can still be authentic if they are in sync with the values you hold dear.”

We discussed in class if authenticity has to do with values, and to me it does. I think that in order to act authentically you have to know what you care about and what values are important to you. Otherwise, what is there to act authentically about?

In addition to that, I like how they said a spectrum of styles. A leader won’t have just one style; they’ll have many depending on whom they are working with. I like that idea because it’s impractical to think that one leader style will work for everyone, but even an authentic leader can switch it up, and that’s acceptable.

The last part of authenticity that I think about is me personally. I’m going to work at a company that I really enjoy. I interned with them last summer, and I’m excited to go back. What I always think about is whether or not I am an authentic person at work. I would never act at work how I do around my friends or family. I will smile and agree and do what they tell me and then go back to my desk and occasionally roll my eyes. That’s where the authentic line confuses me. I enjoyed talking about the differences between wearing a hat and wearing a mask, because I feel like that is something we do everyday, but where is the line? Does it have to do with values again? I assume that is me wearing a hat while at work, but would my boss agree?

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Responses

  1. I think that everyone in ANY leadership role should read this article! I think it is extremely important for people to be able to find their own personal authenticity and embrace it, while also allowing room to agree with other peoples’ core values and beliefs.

    However, I do see in some ways how authenticity may be confused as wearing a mask or a hat. As Dr. Shollen demonstrated in class on Tuesday, how exactly do we know if someone is being their true authentic self or merely just covering it up with a mask? If we do not truly explore our core values, we may not know the depths of our personal authenticity.

    There are some cases, though, where people may have to sacrifice their authenticity for the greater good of an organization or to get the job done. For example, I am a very bubbly and outgoing person, and I’m always cracking jokes and finding humor in every situation. However, as a freshmen RA there are times when I am not able to fully be myself in order to handle a situation or get my point across. While my authentic self is still there, I just have to do my job successfully – which may lead to me wearing a mask occasionally. I do not think that anything is wrong with wearing a mask when necessary if it allows you to accomplish a task that needs to be done. However, I have been very firm in that I keep my authenticity strong and let it show through whenever possible.

  2. What really struck me about this article was the section about “building authenticity.” I never really considered that you had to “build” your authentic self. When we discussed authenticity, I just assumed I always knew who/what my authentic self was, but as I read about this article and think about it, do I really? I’m finding the answer is no, because as we talk about the difference between wearing masks and hats I find it harder to see the difference between the two and I think it’s because I’m not sure what my authentic self really looks like. I think this could potentially be a problem for a lot of female leaders and women in general. We don’t have the opportunities or resources to develop ourselves and might not receive the same mentoring opportunities that a lot of men do, therefore it is harder for women to develop their authentic self and get lost in this game of masks.

  3. I’m glad that you shared this article with the class because I really enjoyed reading it and I took a lot away from it. I always thought of authenticity as simply being your true self and not trying to be someone that you are not. I didn’t realize that there was so much more to the term!

    I had similar thoughts to Tori and Martha while reading this, and was also a little uncertain of how our recent class discussion of wearing a hat and wearing a mask comes into play on the topic of authenticity.

    I think that wearing a hat and wearing a mask differs from authenticity and that difference primarily has to do with values. The term became a lot clearer to me when I reread the section in the article under “What is Authenticity?” The very first sentence explains that being authentic means acting according to your values and beliefs. It makes sense that this would be the first step in building authenticity because you should lead in a way that corresponds with what you truly care about.

    On the other hand, wearing a mask seems less to have to do with values and authenticity to me. I think that it has more to do with knowing exactly how to act in certain situations and around certain people. Wearing a mask appears to be only temporary whereas being authentic is more permanent because your values usually don’t change very much as an adult. I believe that sometimes it is necessary and completely acceptable to wear a mask if it will help one to complete a job or if it allows a person to work more efficiently.

  4. I’ve been thinking a lot about wearing a hat vs. wearing a mask and if you can take off that mask. When I interviewed my woman for my second paper, she admitted that although she was a very direct, value driven leader who wasn’t afraid to confront things, at this job she just started she had taken a quiet approach, and was observing things for a while to see how things went. It was obvious that she was wearing a mask, but was it just temporary until she got the feel for how this company worked, or was it permanent? I completely agree with you that leaders need to be cohesive with their values in order to be considered an authentic leader, but they can “put on different hats” in order to adapt properly to their surroundings while continuing to be cohesive with their values. I think as leaders we think that changing hats may mean that you are changing who you are, but that is not necessarily true unless you are a completely unethical leader (in which case, they have bigger problems to deal with). Adapting to a situation does not mean that your values completely disappear or switch. In order to be a good leader, I think every person needs to figure out what is important to them, and what their values are and COMMIT to them, no matter what the situation may need.


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