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“Authenticity” is having its heyday in the leadership ether. Drape a boa around its neck, drop a tiara on its head, and call it the queen of ‘15.

Why so hot-hot-hot? Well, simply put, authenticity leads to trust, which in turn drives followership, engagement, and ultimately results. Or something like that.

The real question, however, is not why authenticity is so revered. But rather – why do we find it so hard to be real?

In the past, there’ve been other leadership concepts at the forefront… how to be an inspirational leader; an empowering leader; an [insert word of choice] leader. And there have been trainings and articles and the like providing the requisite education on how to become these things.

But authenticity? Really? We need workshops? Trainings? On how to be… real? How has that happened? How has being real evolved to be at odds with success in the workplace?

What if we let all that go and just grounded ourselves in the real work of being real? What would that look like? I have a few ideas. I’d love to hear yours.

  • Leave the models in the magazines. Pick up any fashion magazine and you’ll find beautiful (and lest we forget airbrushed) people looking not-from-real-life. But they’re a display. You and I are the real thing. I’d say the same often goes for leadership models and frameworks. A framework for giving feedback; for managing career development; for navigating hard conversations. Let go of the models. They’re for display. You got this. Just be real. Ask questions. Listen carefully. Say you don’t know when you don’t know.
  • Shine a light on your bumps and uglies. Too many leaders feel compelled to be a role model of success. And yes – success is great. You should own it, and let teams and peers be inspired by it. But also… let down the façade of perfection. We all make mistakes along the way. And if you don’t allow your own mistakes to help others anticipate those same pitfalls, you’re doing no one a service.
  • Say Peek-a-Boo. Put bluntly, show up. You can’t be real if you’re not there. Seriously. Find one thing in your calendar you can simply not do. And then [gasp] don’t do it. Instead, just check in with someone. A peer, a team member, a mentor – with no agenda, just show up. See what they might need from you.

Undoubtedly there are more. What do you believe is the real work of being real at work?