While authenticity is commonly discussed in the communications profession, most companies have yet to realize the profound impact authentic leadership, corporate transparency and “real” branding can have on their teams and businesses.
At its core, authenticity is the promise of being true to oneself, communicating openly and stripping down layers to build strong, trusting foundations with those around you. It means accountability, allowing space for vulnerability, and encouraging open and honest conversations that permit feedback and progress. When channeled appropriately, authenticity can have immense impact on company operations, team morale, productivity, customer satisfaction, sales, company growth and more. It also fosters psychological safety, empowering people to operate at their optimum levels with enjoyment and increased productivity.
The premise of being true to oneself starts with an individual. From there, progress can be made toward a transparent environment — one that supports radical candor and building a real, sustainable brand. Here are four ways to channel authenticity for organizational (and personal) growth.
Regardless of the organization or setting, personal authenticity -– one’s individual why, how and what — leads to increased self-awareness. Having a deep understanding of your strengths, aka, superpowers and passion points can lead you to inspiring work and career fulfillment. Yes, career fulfilment exists and it’s marvelous.
People do their best work when they are genuinely interested in the role, their goals, and when tasks align with their mission, vision and abilities. When we get to channel our unique superpowers and do work that matters, we create momentum. The outcome not only supports the individual but enhances the entire organization.
People with heightened self-awareness are also known to be better leaders, which brings us to the next pillar: authentic leadership.
Managers often underestimate the importance of leading with their hearts AND their minds. Sadly, many managers attempt to command respect by putting on façade to intimidate and control their direct reports and those around them, rather than showing vulnerability and creating trust. Vulnerability is a strength and the ability to show up in a real, genuine way, fosters an environment where challenges are solved, tough conversations take place, and solutions are found versus frustration. And isn’t there more beauty, success and fulfillment when one can inspire greatness over demanding it?
Authentic leaders also put organizational goals ahead of their self-interest or ego and admit when they don’t have an answer. This creates organizational accountability, helping propel the company to the next level.
Organizational transparency fosters collaboration and alignment. In a transparent environment, people understand the why, the vision, company goals and ways their role and unique abilities play into the bigger picture. Employees are also able to have direct conversations, providing genuine feedback without the fear of repercussion. Clear expectations are set, and challenges are discussed openly.
It’s important to note that a transparent culture starts with vulnerable and authentic leaders. You can’t ask people to be genuine and vulnerable if the management team doesn’t subscribe to this philosophy. Authenticity must come from the top, or it won’t be consistent or genuine, and employees can see that.
Things change rapidly, especially in today’s environment — new employees, new customers, new dynamics. What shouldn’t change is how transparent you are when it comes to your vision and communication — no matter what.
Branding creates a public perception of a company – it is largely how businesses communicate with their stakeholders and differentiate themselves. A great brand will be familiar and consistent even as time passes and products evolve.
For internal teams, their company’s brand can serve as a rallying cry; externally, branding is leveraged to form connections, compete, increase sales, attract employees and much more.
Like authentic leaders, authentic brands do as they say and say as they do. They have a brand promise that must be met or else stakeholders will lose trust with the organization. A brand that considers themselves sustainable, for instance, should have sustainable practices in place.
It’s also imperative for brands to be clear and consistent with their branding, as confusion can cause a stakeholder to lose interest and move on to competing brands. In addition, a brand breaking its promise – which can come in many shapes and sizes – may create the need for crisis PR execution.
Admittedly, 100% authenticity attainment is not feasible. It is hard to do anything 100% of the time. But if we all start considering authenticity when mapping out values and goals, making decisions and communicating with others, we’ll see the huge impact it can have on our companies, as well as in our personal and professional lives.
Anna Crowe is founder and CEO of Crowe PR.