March 1, 2020

Jennifer Hanford

Comeback Corner: Be Authentic, Be You


“Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice — a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is actually a collection of choices, choices that we make every day. It’s the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

~ Brené Brown

Just recently, I was promoted to People and Operations Lead for Strella Social Media. In this role, I am responsible for making decisions in regard to our current and future staff—from hiring to coaching and beyond. As someone with an empathetic nature, this role may challenge me in many ways. Fortunately, I love challenges as much as I love people.

Now, just a couple of weeks into my new role, I am already learning valuable lessons. Some of these lessons involve coping with biases and understanding the challenges of authenticity.

Warts and All

One of my favorite idioms is “warts and all.” What this means is that when you accept people, their warts and all, you completely embrace them for who they are. This includes all of their blemishes, faults, and shortcomings. It’s a wonderful concept, don’t you think? If everyone felt that way, we’d always be hired for our dream jobs, be married to the person who loves and dotes on us 24/7, and have coworkers who never irritate us.

If only it could be that easy!

The truth is that we all have biases that affect how we perceive our world and the people we encounter. Many of these biases are hidden or suppressed, but they still have the potential to cloud our judgment. Vivian Giang accurately states in an article for Business Insider that “although hidden bias is common, it can affect hiring, promotions, evaluations, and dismissals, which is extremely harmful for companies trying to grow and diversify.”

When working with people, it’s important to recognize that you and others have biases, whether obvious or hidden. Knowing about bias goes a long way toward understanding authenticity.

Be True to You

Being a leader is hard work. Being an authentic leader may seem even more difficult, but it is possible to achieve. Going back to biases, we may have certain ideas in our minds about how leaders should act and behave. There is a huge difference between stepping out of your comfort zone and trying to be the leader you think you should be. You may find yourself faltering every step of the way because you know deep down inside it's just not who you are.

If you’re making yourself uncomfortable by trying to be someone you’re not, then others will pick up on that, as well. When people see you as being disingenuous, then leading them will not come easily. Instead, be true to you, since that will ultimately benefit you and your team.

My experience so far as a rookie people leader has been eye-opening. Coming to terms with the fact that we all have biases, I feel, is a step toward becoming more authentic personally. And being authentic with others begins with being true to myself.

Over to you

Have you ever had an experience with a great leader who made their team even more productive as a result of his or her authenticity? Have you experienced the opposite with a leader who demotivated others due to being disingenuous? I would love to hear your insight. Feel free to leave a comment to share your thoughts!

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