In this key we distinguish between two applications of authenticity, and make the case that if you don't make the value leap from one application to the other, you are stunting your own growth as well as that of your organization.
The Authenticity Value Leap
Authenticity connotes trustworthiness and reliability because it is based on the evidence that the person is what she claims to be. However, few leaders recognize that authenticity has two applications. If you fail to grasp and act on this fact you limit your growth and fail to reach your full potential. You also impede your organization.
At the beginning of a workshop with an executive team, I asked the attendees to give me permission to hold them accountable to their greater individual and collective opportunities. "We've been on a journey for a couple of years," I said. "During that time you exceeded your business goals and delivered results ahead of schedule. You have developed and grown as professionals and as a leadership team. So why am I asking you to be accountable for your greater potential? Because I believe that you can create dramatic acceleration and realize an even greater level of success by making the leap from 'authenticity one' to 'authenticity two'."
What are these two applications of authenticity?
The first is the authenticity of the current state. The second is the authenticity of the future state. To foster robust leadership and organizational growth, you need both. To realize your individual and collective future potential requires that you make the value leap from the authenticity of the current state to that of the future state.
How do you exhibit the authenticity of the current state?
You see the situation for what it is openly, not as it was, or as you wish it were. You communicate transparently your experience here and now. You display the capacity to observe and articulate the current state of play objectively, free of bias.
How do you demonstrate the authenticity of the future state, and what are its defining characteristics?
You exhibit "authenticity two" by demonstrating your capacity to see your growth opportunity and by your determination to act on it diligently. You step up to the challenge by taking responsibility for what you are capable of becoming for your team and for the people you serve.
Here is an example of how I framed the call to be authentic to your aspirational future.
My son is the CEO of an edtech startup. After achieving rapid growth in his business, he realized the time was right to more than double his team from three employees to seven. He upgraded all titles and established a new level of clarity about roles and responsibilities. He asked me to review the draft of his announcement about the changes and the company's future.
In offering my feedback, I first validated the authenticity of the current state by pointing to the aspects of his writing that communicated his news effectively. I then addressed the future state, saying, "Given all that you've accomplished, you now must raise the quality of your communication. With this announcement, you have the opportunity to set the stage in a powerful way for the next growth phase of your company, which requires you and your team to play an even bigger game. That vision is not reflected adequately here. You cannot assume that your employees know and understand what's in your head about the future, and the kind of changes necessary to get there. You must set the context for them in a clear and compelling way."
To set the context properly, answer these five questions:
- What changes must we make?
- Why must we make them?
- Why make these changes now?
- What will "success" look like?
- What will this success enable us to do?
By first clarifying the desired future for yourself and then communicating that picture clearly and effectively to your team, you will demonstrate authenticity not just to this moment, but also to your future potential and the growth opportunity in front of you.
Now it's your turn. Turn the key. What authenticity value leap will you make?
Reflect first on your future potential. What opportunities are available for you to step into? In what areas are you not yet realizing your fullest potential?
Now reflect on the truth of your current state. What's working well? Where are you struggling, and why?
Finally, reflect on how to make the authenticity value leap. How will you step up? What will change? What are you prepared to take responsibility for?
The answers to these questions will lead you to the actions necessary to realizing your greater opportunity potential. Being too timid or overly cautious can be inauthentic. You are here for a purpose. Your team was brought together for a purpose. Your purpose and your team's purpose demand that you step up to make the leap. Start today!
© Aviv Shahar