Women aren’t always true to themselves. In a vain attempt to live up to organizational norms and expectations, their behaviors sometimes go against their own values. But it’s not easy being a phony. It takes a lot of energy to behave in ways that are out of sync with our true values, priorities, hopes, characteristics, and style. The energy expended trying to come across as something you are not is energy unavailable for work and other activities.
The alternative to this predicament is authenticity— a healthy alignment between your values and behaviors that can reenergize life at work and at home. Women who are authentic have a good understanding of themselves and their priorities. They attend first to what is important to them rather than what might be important to other people. They are clear about how they feel and what they need and prefer.
Authenticity is best thought of as a condition or dynamic balance—and not a personality trait. As a goal, it is not clearly defined like earning an MBA degree. And achieving authenticity doesn’t mean it’s yours to keep. You have to work to remain authentic, reviewing your priorities and choosing behaviors that match those priorities as circumstances change.
It is difficult to develop your capabilities when you are suppressing your true values and style or are distracted by inner conflict.
But living a life strongly connected to your belief system promotes growth, learning, and psychological well-being. That makes authenticity an important factor in leadership development.
Individual authenticity is important for organizations as well. People who are authentic bring their whole selves to their jobs and participate fully and honestly in the workplace. Organizations that place a premium on conformity at the expense of authenticity may be incurring hidden costs. Managers who put on a false front or who struggle with feelings of inauthenticity exhaust so much of their energy that they often find themselves depleted and losing interest in their work. In addition, inauthenticity can often be recognized by others and become a disruptive, negative force adding to uncertainty and distrust. Organizations that foster authentic behavior are more likely to have engaged, enthusiastic employees and workplaces that are open and promote trust.