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Mastering the Art of Authenticity

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More than just being yourself, mastering authenticity is about being self-aware, having clear values, understanding the motivators that drive you and putting all of this into the proper context.

Last week, I explored the topic of “The Big Bounce-Back: How to Flourish After Adversity” with Dr. Rachel Talton. She kindly shared some additional insights with me as we explored how you continue your momentum, increase your success and become a high performance leader. “The context is always leadership”, says Dr. Talton. “CEOs and entrepreneurs who are authentic tend to have high-performance organizations. Their employees are more engaged, more loyal and more aligned. Authentic leadership is a competitive advantage.”

This is why authenticity matters. In our personal lives, authenticity is a drive for more engaged relationships. Who exactly am I dealing with? Who are you when you show up? If I know, like and trust you then it’s less work to guess who you are. It is authenticity that allows us to get past transactional relationships and into deeper relationships.

Authenticity starts with trust and the willingness to be vulnerable. In being vulnerable, there are three traits that most people look for:

  1. Are you benevolent? Do you put the needs of those your serve above your own? It’s important that those you work with and care about know that you back them up and have their best interests at heart.
  2. Do you have competence? Those around you must trust that you know what you’re doing.
  3. Do you have integrity? We look for those who have high moral values, are honest and display high ethical standards. Those around you look to see if you share a set of values and live those values. Value alignment is important when it comes to integrity. High ethical standards require honesty and transparency.

Do you authentically have my back or do you put your needs in front of my own? (Or do you just say that you do and not back it up with your actions?) People can tell the difference. The words must match the actions, competence and expertise. “You either say it or you ARE it,” explains Dr. Talton.

In mastering the art of authenticity, there are 4 specific areas we all need to work on:

1. Self-awareness. The most critical aspect of being authentic is to know yourself.Understand your why and what matters most to you. Who are you really? What are your values, and what are the values that align with others? Can you stand powerfully with those values? As Berne Brown explains in her book Daring Greatly, “It’s important to allow your true self to shine regardless of your circumstances.”

2. Values. Another great key to authenticity is an understanding of your unique purpose and values–and practicing those values daily. What are your passion points? What makes you uniquely you? This is the currency of passion. Foundation fuels our energy to do great work. Dr. Talton has five primary personal value currencies:

  • Passion–a huge value that drives everything else. Get to the answer.
  • Accountability–real measurable and meaningful impact. Marketplace, organizations, etc.
  • Trustworthiness–it lowers transaction costs and is very much like currency. The best marketing on earth means nothing if it’s not believed. Trustworthiness is the difference. Emotional value, removes barriers. Trusted relationships change everything. Even if we don’t agree, you need a level of trust to start conversations (think GeoPolitical).
  • Intellectual curiosity–the value of knowing things and asking the next question. Emotionally engaged for the purpose of helping people in the answer. Passionate and emotionally engaged curiosity to know the answer on behalf of humanity.
  • Legacy–having a legacy to live toward is a tremendous value that I have.

3. Motivators. Each of us must understand what motivates us intrinsically, and extrinsically. For some, intrinsic motivators can include “making a difference.” Extrinsic motivators might include earning the respect of others in your industry. Once you understand the values, what are the triggers that move you to action?

“Movement toward a desired outcome requires key motivators” says Dr. Talton. “Having an impact, for example, is an intrinsic motivator for me. At seven years old, I knew I wanted to fix people who were broken. How do you help people be whole, happy and integrated? That’s intrinsic. That’s what I wanted. Knowing that, I create work that helps other people. I align the work that I love with serving other people.

“Extrinsically, I get to talk to others about it. Operate from a place of authenticity to have a more joyful life. Flourishing is about finding joy in the process as well as success and excellence. It’s why we take time off–to enjoy our lives and bring joy to our lives as we become successful.”

4. Context. Finally, understanding the context in which you are operating is extremely important. Sometimes, even the most authentic responses must be moderated, or even muted, depending on the context. Although it’s important to be yourself, being professional, being respectful, and being effective is also important.

Know your audience and be mindful of how to have the best impact by listening to their needs. How do we truly meet these needs? By paying attention to where you are and how to truly leverage who you are. “I spent some time in Dubai” Dr. Talton explained. “As a woman, I saw that men can’t hear me at all if I have a certain level of assertion or aggression. With a tinge of modesty, I can still be me and be heard. This will get you the outcome you desire by meeting the needs that they have.”

Well said. Mastering the art of authenticity is more than just being you. It’s about being self-aware, having clear values, understanding the motivators that drive you and putting all of this into the proper context. It’s not easy, but if you start with being vulnerable, authenticity has a real chance of success.

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