We were sitting around a crackling fire. As we intently listened to one man’s story, the light of the flame showed everyone’s faces. What was interesting about this guy was that he said, “I don’t really have a story. What you see is what you get.” And he proceeded to step into a story that had everybody completely enthralled.
It was just a story about a struggle he had been through. How he overcame it and how it had changed him. To tell you the truth, it really wasn’t anything earth shattering. However, nobody moved during his entire story. And the reason was simple: He was completely authentic. He was totally his fully expressed self, nothing more nothing less.
I’ve worked in leadership realms all over the world, from Special Forces to real estate to nonprofit advocacy to corporate leadership and all places in between. And what I’ll tell you is this: In this trust-depleted, hyperconnected, over-connected world, people are starving for authentic leaders. In a world full of selfies, we’re looking for someone who is comfortable enough in their own skin to just be who they are. And those are the people we follow.
What does it mean to be authentic?
Authenticity is simply staying true to who you are, what you do and who you serve. And this quality isn’t just important around a campfire, it’s crucial to our businesses. Kissmetrics puts the growing importance of authenticity like this:
Indicators are everywhere – for example the 2012 Goodpurpose study demonstrated that where quality and price were equal the leading purchase driver for 53 percent of consumers was ‘social purpose’. Consider also Facebook’s upcoming changes to newsfeed which reflect the trend toward content that shows more heart and encourages the forging of deeper connections, giving users the ability to focus only on image based posts or tune out brand updates completely. In fact in many cases the only way businesses are going to get their news seen is if friends share it, and to achieve that they’re going to have to be convincingly honest and authentic.
The more virtual our lives get, the more we hunger after something genuine. What people really want now is not just a product or a service, it’s an experience. An experience that is more honest and transparent …more authentic – and businesses are going to have to keep up with growing consumer authority and give people what they want if they want to survive.
The benefits of being an authentic leader
Karissa Thacker says in her book The Art of Authenticity, “The authentic are brave enough to be themselves despite all of the fear within as well as all of the fear in the atmosphere.”
You know the saying “if it were easy everyone would do it”? Being your true self can be tough. In fact, it really takes some guts. But the relationships you build and the trust you gain, not just from those around you but also from potential customers, are worth the risk.
In its 10 Benefits of Being a Trustworthy Leader, Inc. explains that authenticity in leadership can accomplish everything from improving your well-being to strengthening your relationships. Becoming a trustworthy leader can even strengthen your resolve in times of doubt:
With a sharpened sense of self-awareness, trustworthy leaders can more easily navigate the situations that cause doubt. Doubt isn’t completely unavoidable. Authentic leaders can rely on their consistent character to boost their resolve during difficult times.
The thing is, these genuine humans are actually the ones we’ve followed for hundreds of thousands of years. That’s who we connect to, that’s who we follow, that’s who we believe in. And although it seems like we’re more technological and more sophisticated today, the fact is that whether it’s on Facebook Live or in your business, the more authentic you are as a human being the more people will relate to you, connect with you, buy from you and believe in you.