The new business buzzword in leadership coaching is ‘authenticity’. Apparently a great leader needs to be authentic.  It’s a good word when applied to a specific style of behaviour but it tells us very little.

Authentic at work, authentic at home and authentic with friends. Authenticity is supposed to about ‘being yourself’. However, who are we? When I look back on my life, I don’t think I really knew who I was (certainly not in the work place) until I was in my late thirties. Finding oneself is much harder than many people think.

I was speaking to a young woman last week who had just started her working career. The problem she is facing is that she is, by far, the youngest in her department. She’s mostly surrounded by males and most of them are married, settled down with children and displaying very different behaviour styles than herself. Right now she’s finding it hard to be authentic. Her authenticity; her natural behaviour style, is far removed from those around her. So one of two things will happen, she will either adapt and blend in or she’ll leave and find a group of people to work with who are more like herself.

Of course things are not that black and white. If she adapts she will also, to a certain extent, make an impact on her environment. But you know and I know that we in business are great at polishing our employees into nice rounded pebbles.  Authenticity is supposed to run deep, right down to one’s values.  But what are your values? Where do they come from? Are they genuinely yours, or are they simply mimicked from others?

With the rapid onset of everything digital, our businesses need to change and to change fast. We need to find far more efficient and agile ways of doing what we do, and part of that will involve massive restructuring.  And when that happens, I will not want to see authenticity. I will only want sincerity. Anyone who has been let go from their employer will instantly know the difference between the two.

Sincerity is saying what you feel. It’s about being honest. It’s much easier to be sincere than to be authentic. Especially in times of change.

It seems to me that we go through different stages in our lives, and when each one appears we have to learn to adapt and to re-invent ourselves. During this process, authenticity can be tricky while sincerity should still come naturally. “I feel bad”. “I want a change.” “I would like to try something new.” “Can I help in anyway?” This should be the stuff of the future.

“It’s a sunny day, the systems are all running fine, let’s go to the seaside!”

Have a good week,