Okay, so I’m being a bit provocative today. I’ve been struggling with the idea of authenticity as it relates to leadership for some time. There’s something about it that just makes me uncomfortable. And then a friend said, “Hitler was authentic.” Wow.
Authenticity ensures that our inner values, feelings and beliefs match our outer selves. In other words, we aren’t faking anything to fit in or to be accepted.
Authenticity is important to us as humans. We are equipped with finely tuned bullshit meters that help us tell when someone is lying to us and when they are being authentic. We need to know that what we see is what we get when we elect a Prime Minister or a President or that we can trust that our boss says what she means. Authenticity is one way that we measure trustworthiness.
It’s great to feel that you can be yourself, without having to suppress any of your values, beliefs or personality. But if that isn’t in the best interests of your followers, your community, then perhaps authenticity becomes a tool to force your beliefs onto others. Authenticity, without a deep understanding of the needs of your followers is really just self-centredness.
Hitler was authentic. Does that make him good? Does that justify the Second World War and the murder of millions of Jews and eastern Europeans, and the enslavement of millions of others? Of course not. Authenticity alone does not a good leader make.