I confess upfront. I have very serious issues with so many on social media who preach that you should always be your authentic self. Admittedly, “Authenticity” is an element within the Sustained Leadership WBS, and I define it in this way:
WBS Dictionary: Authenticity of anything is based on an assessment that suggests that it is genuine and not false or copied. It is original. Authenticity is a complete lack of phoniness. It is entitled to deference and acceptance because its evidence is in agreement with known facts or experience. People place their trust in authentic leaders because of a belief, based on evidence and facts, that assures them that this leader will not mislead, prevaricate, self-aggrandize, or otherwise seek personal interests (5.2) rather than organizational interests. The authentic leader places their loyalty within their own organization and never betrays that loyalty. An authentic leader is considered “the real thing.” They are not resting on past laurels, borrowed credibility, false pretense, or pretending to be guided by one set of values when the facts and experiences of those around them suggest that there is a falsity, at worst, or a hidden agenda, at best, to their claims and positions.
If we could all agree on this definition, which is one of the goals of writing theses leadership lexicon blogs, then I would be OK with promoting authenticity on social media. The primary problem I have with it is that if you are being authentic, and if you are authentically an ass, then you are being encouraged to be the true you and be an irritation to everyone else. Rather than being authentically “you,” perhaps you should strive to be a better “you” in the first instance.
Unfortunately, there are too many authentic asses on social media. They can’t debate, they can’t argue (in the Greek Forum manner), they can’t gather credible facts, and they resort to talking points (often false) and ad hominem attacks on others. Sadly, it is a reflection of the “real” them.
Personally, I can do without that sort of authenticity. On the other hand, when they make themselves easy to identify, it is easy to block them and clean up your own timeline.
Becoming the Best Possible Version of You
One goal of the Sustained Leadership WBS is helping people to become the best possible version of themselves. We are all leaders-in-training and on our personal leadership journey. We are all flawed, and we all have great room for improvement. I’ll stand by anyone who is working hard to improve themselves and be a positive contribution to society. I would take this stand even if the person is, demonstrably, a very un-nice person presently.
To lead others, you must be the real you. You should not be duplicitous, phony, or fake. If the real you is a person others would not, or should not, choose to follow, you will be disqualifying yourself from leadership roles. This is as it should be. The point of Sustained Leadership WBS, however, is to prevent you from exhibiting and holding on to those undesirable traits. It is designed to guide you on a path that will remove those damaging habits or traits and replace them with positive WBS elements. Adopt the principles of servant leadership. Be kind.
Decent Human Beings
So be authentic. Be the real you. If you are not working to make yourself the best version of yourself, however, I (and others) might choose to avoid you. And when asked if I think you should be authentic, I’m most likely going to say, “No. Try to be a decent human being for a change.” In other words, grow up. Be an adult. And learn to think clearly, rely on facts, and adopt the 228 other elements of leadership to make yourself a more positive influence and sustained leader.
You may feel you have a right to speak, and under the American Constitution I will defend that right. You do not, however, have a right to be heard. You have to earn that.
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