Can You Let The Authentic You Out?
Today, according to Adam Grant, a professor of management and psychology at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the author of a new book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move The World, we are in the Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love, and career.
Authenticity means erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. As Brene Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, defines it, authenticity is “the choice to let our true selves be seen.”
We all have developed social filters or self-controls that prevent us from saying whatever may be on our mind at the time. If we expressed our true self and all the unfiltered thoughts that pop into our brain, we would probably be in a state of constant conflict and turmoil. Some things are just better left unsaid.
How much you aim for authenticity depends on a personality trait called self-monitoring. If you’re a high self-monitor, you’re constantly scanning your environment for social cues and adjusting accordingly. You hate social awkwardness and desperately want to avoid offending anyone. But if you’re a low self-monitor, you’re guided more by your inner states, regardless of your circumstances.
Studies have shown that high self-monitors “advance faster and earn higher status, in part because they’re more concerned about their reputations. And while that would seem to reward self-promoting frauds, these high self-monitors spend more time finding out what others need and helping them.”
I would argue that this style reflects an insightful and empathic view of what’s happening to those we work with.
Rather than selling out, it’s a way to demonstrate how you can contribute to the good of the team and others along the way. This reflects positively on how you are viewed as a collaborator and a teammate. It does not mean that you live your work life in the selfless pursuit of the common good; it means that when what’s good for you, your team, and the organization are aligned, everyone wins.
If being authentic and a low self-monitor demands a greater level of self-disclosure about your feelings on a situation, then I can see the potential risk. I find that a candid appraisal of the impact of various decisions can be refreshing and stimulate good dialogue, but overly emotional responses get awkward and can stifle discussion.
Grant suggests that we focus on being sincere rather than just authentic.
I would also suggest we should make every effort to be sure that we are consistent and congruent in how we connect with others.
As I reflected upon this interesting perspective, it occurred to me that high self-monitors must have well-developed emotional intelligence and are probably highly empathic to those around them. Instead of focusing on how everything affects them and what they need, they first tend to focus upon the following questions regarding others:
- Why are they saying that?
- What are their needs for this effort or project?
- What would a good outcome look like for everyone involved in this discussion or project?
- How can they contribute in a manner that allows me to learn and grow?
Borrow and try to incorporate those styles as you grow and develop yours. Your ultimate transformation will always be the addition and subtraction of those behaviors and styles that work best. It does not diminish or sell out who you are, it’s just part of everyone’s life journey.
- Since you are not always the best judge of the impact you have on others, do you regularly ask for feedback in a manner that is efficient and effective for all involved?
- Do you regularly seek to understand before you worry about seeking to be understood?
- Do you exercise appropriate caution about how you present yourself to others on social media? Do you allow inappropriate social media tidbits to contradict the authentic self you are trying to project?
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.
Willy Steiner is the President of Executive Coaching Concepts, an executive coaching services firm dedicated to assisting senior executives in taking their individual and organizational performance “TO THE NEXT LEVEL”. He fine-tuned his skills in leading organizational change, building high performing teams and in devising innovative incentive systems with General Electric, RCA Corp. and Galileo International. Assisting executives in driving change by creating urgency, focus and alignment, with a keen eye for cultivating and sustaining necessary relationships, is an ongoing focus of his work. He is an expert in guiding organizations through complex international mergers and divestitures, blending distinct cultures and supporting growth in international markets.
For more about Willy, his new book, Discover the Joy of Leading: A practical guide to resolving your management challenges, and business, visit executivecoachingconcepts.com.