“We believe ethical behavior and intentional vulnerability demand the pursuit of authenticity, humility, and trustworthiness.”
Here, at ULEAD, we are big fans of Brené Brown. Like really big fans. So it is not surprising that her writings have challenged us to continue to strive to live into authenticity in both our own office relationships as well as the relationships we develop with the teams we work with. But in today’s age, “authenticity” may seem like just another one of those feel-good, buzz words. But we believe it goes deeper than just a token term. Authenticity is a commitment. It is a commitment to both yourself and to the people around you. Here is what I mean:
We sometimes run an activity called “Personality Trade” with teams which challenges each person to think of 3-4 unique characteristics about themselves. For example, a personal nickname or a favorite breakfast food. Once everyone has come up with their list they then mingle and swap “personalities” with other people they meet. Pretty soon, after you have swapped 1 or 2 personalities, things start to get a little fuzzy. People start passing the wrong favorite color or even begin making up answers because they can’t keep it all straight. You see, it is always easier to live into your own unique experience than it is to fully assume someone else’s “ideal” personality.
This is authenticity. It is claiming your own personal values and gifts of leadership. Even though it may seem like another person’s style of communication, or passion for life, or welcoming personality is an ideal way to live; the best results come when we find our own unique values and then fully live into them for the sake of our team or community.
Now we sometimes hear, “but what if someone is naturally a jerk”? First, I don’t believe people are born jerks. But beyond that, we believe that authenticity is part of a larger picture of what it means to be a person of character. Authenticity is critical, but it is tied to other critical personal traits such as humility and trustworthiness. So we strive to be our best selves within the dynamics of a larger social circle. And if done right, our authenticity actually puts us into a place of vulnerability because it is showing others who we really are, which can be quite scary. And it is within this vulnerability that we have the chance to grow and develop our own selves while also making significant impacts on the lives of those around us. According to Merriam Webster, the word character comes from Greek word charassein which meant to sharpen or engrave.* So when we are a person of character we are sharpening ourselves, defining ourselves. If we aren’t being authentic, then our character isn’t being defined for our personal good and the good of others.
So what might it take for you to live into your character a bit more today, to be authentic to both yourself and those around you?
Ben Rheinheimer, Self-Efficacy Curator at ULEAD