We have a real obsession with “authenticity” today, which I fear in many ways is a toxic one.
I’m not advocating by any means that we look for lies, to pretend to be something we’re not.
But I fear that “authenticity” today, and certainly the way I see it being discussed with regards to what CEOs or employees do, has just become a cover for bad behaviour.
The nicer word for what is effectively selfishness.
Authenticity doesn’t mean do whatever you feel like. It doesn’t mean to do whatever you want.
Yet that’s what it’s being interpreted as. “If I don’t tell my team/boss x, then I’m being inauthentic”. “If I don’t show that I’m actually mad, then that’s being inauthentic”. “If you don’t demand what you want, then you’re not being authentic”.
The reality is, doing whatever you want or feel like isn’t authentic. It’s actually the definition of being selfish.
And what’s more, if each of us goes for “everything I want” we will be assured mutual destruction. Humanity has thrived through collaboration – switching that off to focus really hard just on “what I want” is robbing us of the most important tool we need to help ourselves and our planet back to thriving.
So what’s the alternative?
Though it may not sound like it, I actually like “authentic”. But the authentic we should obsess about is being authentic to our values.
And recognising that being true to our values means looking beyond the immediate thing we’re tempted to do, and recognising that that very thing may feel “authentic” to the moment, but isn’t authentic to your values.
So if you feel the true you is selfish, then go ahead and do whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it. Mouth off at your boss or your team because something annoys you.
But if selfishness isn’t one of your values, think twice before acting and wielding authenticity as your defence. Accept that compromise in behaviour, increasingly portrayed as a nemesis, in many ways is precisely what is needed in order to move many things forward, provided that it isn’t fundamental compromise on your values.
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