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The Liberating Power of Authenticity

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice, to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brené Brown

Life is less complicated when we choose to be truthful; those little lies we think are inconsequential raise our relationships’ stress levels. Studies have shown that honesty is foundational to relational longevity. Meaningful relationships stand the test of time and weather the storms of life because of trust built with a good character driven by authenticity’s high-quality value.

Honesty is Good Business

Peter Drucker writes, “The proof of the sincerity and seriousness of management is an uncompromising emphasis on the integrity of character. This, above all, has to be symbolized in management’s “people” decisions.”

Many leaders lack the courage to require an uncompromising emphasis on the integrity of character among their teams, choosing the nonconfrontational approach of pleasantry for fear of offending someone instead. I’m all for avoiding offenses, but never at the cost of honesty; it takes a secure person to be honest.

Choosing pleasantries may keep the peace, but it keeps us from engaging in those tough conversations necessary for important decisions and problem-solving. The avoidance of honesty engenders all kinds of relational complications, distrust, and less employee engagement. An uncompromisingly honest team continually proves its value with interest.

Honesty is often challenging because being truthful tends to make some people uncomfortable. Honesty, on the other hand, is liberating on many levels; it fosters a good conscience, helps us uncover self-deception, assists with consistent reasoning, it sharpens our intuition, and aids problem-solving skills. I’ve heard it said that at the end of the day, “a clean conscience makes a good pillow.”

To Be Honest, is to Be Trusted

Authenticity is powerful because it is, by definition, impossible to fake. To lead an authentic life is to lead a truly honest life. Ed Latimore

Business neuroscientist Lynda Shaw observes, “Many studies now report that companies who perpetuate a high level of trust enjoy greater employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and business success.”

A leader’s lack of truthfulness produces several counterproductive behaviors; one of them is dishonesty which breeds more dishonesty. For instance, at a meeting, employees may nod in the affirmative to avoid revealing their disagreement; others may voice their objections but have hidden agendas; both are being untruthful and, therefore, dishonest.

It should be of no surprise that this decreased engagement always leads to underperforming teams. As a result, leaders are frustrated by the sense of vagueness and disingenuousness coming from team members. It takes courage and solid character to be honest with everyone all the time.

Our Character is Who We Are

“Who a person is will ultimately determine if their brains, talents, competencies, energy, effort, deal-making abilities, and opportunities will succeed.” – Dr. Henry Cloud

“Our traditional understanding of character is that it involves morals and ethics and is a safeguard against bad things happening. However, that’s not all there is to character. True character integration requires that a leader:

Capture the hearts and minds of people they’re leading See all of the realities in front of them, including blind spots regarding themselves, others, markets, customers, or other realities necessary to reach their goals Produce results congruent to resources and abilities Deal with losses and negative people and situations Create growth in their organizations, people, profits, or industry Become part of a larger mission

Although little attention is paid to these components of character, they can have greater effect than a person’s industry and alliance building skills. Neglecting them can result in a performance ceiling much lower than one’s aptitude, derailing when one hits an obstacle, or self-destructing shortly after a success, thus negating it.(1)

Honesty is Truly the Best Policy

“The responsibility is all yours; no one can stop you from being honest or straightforward.” – Marcus Aurelius

The VIA Institute on Character writes, “When you are honest, you speak the truth. More broadly, you present yourself in a genuine and sincere way, without pretense, and taking responsibility for your feelings and actions. You are a person of integrity — you are who you say you are — and you act consistently across the domains of your life rather than being one way in the community and a completely different way in your family. As a result, you believe you are being consistently true to yourself.

This strength involves accurately representing your internal states, intentions, and commitments, both publicly and privately. The strength of honesty is often linked to self-concordance- the extent to which your goals accurately represent your implicit interests and values. Honesty allows people to take responsibility for their feelings and behaviors, owning them, and reaping benefits by doing so.”(2)

“Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.” – Maya Angelou

End Notes

(1) “Integrity” by Dr. Henry Cloud (2) VIA Institute on Character

*** This article was authored by John Picarello, Chief Leadership Officer at Lions Pride Leadership Co.***


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