Be authentically real but not rude

I’m guest posting over at the Lead Change Group…a place where you’ll regularly find lots of good insights, especially into character-based leadership and beginning a leadership revolution.

Gene was upset with his new team’s quarterly business results, and his withering criticism of their performance during the staff meeting had brought a stunned hush to the room. Not one of the ten people sitting around the table had been exempt from having their deficiencies cruelly described and even mocked during the meeting. As he strode from the room, Gene mentally congratulated himself for telling it like it was. He prided himself on being authentic.

Have you ever worked for a boss like Gene? One who confused realness with rudeness?

The word authenticity has its roots in the Greek philosophy of to thine own self be true, and is one of the hallmarks of good leadership. Gene’s behaviors went awry, however, because he failed to consider that truly authentic leaders are “aware of the context in which they operate” (Avolio, Luthans and Walumbwa, 2004) because “authenticity is a quality that others must attribute to you” (Goffee and Jones, 2005).

Authenticity, like leadership, is relational. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It begins with you, requiring self-awareness, self-regulation and self-discipline. Under the guise of being genuine, one shouldn’t blurt out those first unfiltered thoughts. Transparency can come with tact.

3 rules of the road for leaders to be authentically real without being rude

Be candid without being insensitive. Providing forthright feedback is critical for career development, yet one doesn’t have to shred another’s self-confidence when doing so. While you may think what someone did was stupid and laughable, using those words only makes others defensive. When they become defensive, they close off, thinking you’re a jerk rather than focusing on what they need to change. Authentic leaders speak their truth yet deliver constructive, concise and compassionate feedback that leaves self-respect intact.

Have a strong opinion without being judgmental and unyielding. Nowhere is it written that others must perpetually agree with your point of view. Others seeing things differently than you do doesn’t make them wrong. Before you categorize someone as being difficult, determine if they might not be thinking the same about you. Authentic character-based leaders accept differing positions with positive unconditional regard, practicing Ben Zander’s Art of Possibility Rule #6: don’t take yourself so seriously. They don’t use authenticity as a mask for rigidity.

Be true to your nature while keeping possibilities open. We all have a default setting where we feel most comfortable. Yet using that “take me as I am” mindset limits creativity, innovation and communication; plus it breeds arrogance, fosters stereotypes and perpetuates biases. Many options were open to Gene for sharing his performance concerns with his team without publicly belittling them. Tactfully voicing his disappointment, expressing his desire for better results, and inviting input would have yielded a more productive outcome. Authentic character-based leaders look for new solutions that still align with their values.

Layering in thoughtfulness when dealing with others doesn’t make one inauthentic. Rather, it shows strength of character and demonstrates real self-control in leading yourself so you can lead others.

What say you?





Photography: Light and Shadow by Fan Ho



Keep your integrity pointing north

While doing some pro bono career coaching for a local organization, an individual expressed this sentiment: Why shouldn’t I go with the flow to get ahead? I don’t want to be a failure so what’s the big deal about “reframing” my experience, my job title, etc. to fit a job posting and at least get the interview? I can clarify things then. Where’s the harm?

Where’s the harm? It depends on which “flow: you want. Do you want the flow of getting a job at any cost, or the one where you stick with the truth and maintain your integrity?

My counsel? Hold firm to the truth! Keep your integrity! Think about the wisdom Harriet Beecher Stowe offers when she says to “never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

Your values are your rock and your compass against which you measure what’s important to you in life. Be true to yourself.

A few practical tips and pointers for not giving up:

  • Steer clear up the lure of jazzing up your resume in an untruthful way to make your background more attractive. Be thorough in defining and quantifying your contributions. Stick to the facts.
  • Volunteer. It’s a great a way to keep your skills fresh if you are having trouble finding another job. Helping an organization or individuals in need is also a pretty cool positive jolt to your spirits.
  • Be open to trying new jobs that you might have passed over in better times. No job is below you.
  • Don’t compromise your core values and beliefs. Avoid acting like something or someone you are not to gain some temporary benefit.
  • Keep smiling, stay friendly, and stay positive.

Your time will come, and when it does, you’ll still have your integrity.


This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

Spotting the laugh-track leader(Les McKeown, Predictable Success)

Art by Earthianne

Occasionally folks receive the (misplaced) advice to “fake it until you make it” - using external trappings to compensate for a lack of inner confidence. Les offers up five sure-fire signs of leadership inauthenticity.

If You Want to Be a Critic, Go Watch a Movie (Art Petty, Management Excellence)

“The Leader as Critic is one of the most toxic, idea-crushing characters you’ll ever find in the workplace. This individual mistakenly assumes that title confers a License to Kill (perceived bad ideas) and he/she takes pride in shooting down ideas to protect people and teams from themselves.” Art offers both self-help advice if you’re a practicing critic as well as some insights for working for a boss-critic.

One Word Leaders Should Never Use (Mike Figliuolo, Lead Change Group Guest Post)

Have you ever participated in a communication exercise in which you verbally emphasize a different word in a sentence and see how the meaning changes? Powerful reminders of how powerful a single word can be. Mike offers up one word every leader should strike from their vocabulary (to which the Get Your BIG On team says woo-hoo, right on!)

A Behavior Model for Persuasive Design (BJ Fogg, Persuasive Technology Lab, Stanford University)

The Get Your BIG On team was fascinated by this paper which “presents a new model for understanding human behavior as a product of three factors: motivation, ability, and triggers.” The author purports that all “three factors must occur at the same moment, else the behavior will not happen.” If your work requires you to be persuasive or to motivate teams, you’ll enjoy this interesting read about behavior change.

Thought of the week:

May my feet rest firmly on the ground
May my head touch the sky
May I see clearly
May I have the capacity of listen
May I be free to touch
May my words be true
May my heart and mind be open
May my hands be empty to fill the need
May my arms be open to others
May my gifts be revealed to me
So that I may return that which has been given
Completing the great circle.

~Terma Collective


This Week’s Fav Leadership Reading

Why true leadership involves less talking and more listening (Mary Schaefer, SmartBlog on Leadership)

Sometimes listening is way more effective than talking, and great leaders know this. Listening takes the interaction out of monologue territory and moves it into effective dialogue. Mary offers five insights for leaders looking for engagement, connection and results to keep in mind.

Occupy Your Street  (Patti Blackstaffe, Strategic Sense)

In this thought-provoking piece, Patti encourages all of us to look inward and accept responsibility for who we are and for where we sit. “WE have the power to change things in this world with actions that can truly affect Wall Street. Think about it, if 99% of us are financially hurting or trying to make sense of where we find ourselves within this brutal economy, then the number-odds are pretty much in our favour.”

Letting Go of Your Need to be Right (Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire Leadership Solutions)

Society, academia and business all reward us for having the right answer. Yet sometimes there’s more at stake than pushing your rightness onto others. Mary Jo offers a great stepping off place for leaders looking to help themselves and others understand that there are more than “right” or “wrong” answers.

A Critique of Authenticity (Colleen Sharen, Thinking Is Hard Work)

If you’re interested in reading a contrarian point of view relative to authentic leadership, check out Colleen’s provocative post.  “In other words, authenticity assumes that we have the ability to have complete self-knowledge. It also assumes that the expression of our selves is more important than our relationship with others and their needs.”

Cleaning Baby Poop Helps Make Great Leaders (Ben Lichtenwalner, Modern Servant Leader)

We admit that it was the title that grabbed us – it isn’t often that one sees baby poo and leadership together. We’re on a bit of a leadership humility kick here at GYBO, so it interesting to see how Ben uses cleaning up kid’s nasty diapers as a storytelling vehicle, prompting leaders to consider whether or not they’re humble enough to get their hands dirty.

Quote of the week:  The firm that ignores the intangible qualities that the human beings who are our colleagues bring to their careers will never build a great workforce or a great organization. ~John C. Bogle


Musings on authencity and connection

I spent my Black Friday morning pondering the residue from a couple great conversations, some prior writing and some traveling reading. 

Lots of noodling, no solutions…

We crave connection.  We hold sincerity and authenticity in high esteem.  We want to trust and be trusted. We want to give and receive compassion. Yet, these attributes seem (in my opinion!) to be in short supply in the business world (particularly corporate America). 

I sat at a table where rich food and wine were in abundance, and obsequious attendance, but sincerity and truth were not; and I went away hungry from the inhospitable board.     ~Thoreau

Could it be because…

…we’re so focused on our own personal agenda that we skip assisting others? Daniel Goleman offers this as a possible theory.

…we feel inadequate to offer guidance, direction or assistance to others?

…we’re under pressure to perform, to deliver short-term results and use that to justify impersonal interactions, thinking that the ends justify the means?

…we’re caught in the societal trap of soulless success, celebrity and/or financial gain?

 …we’ve made an art form out of Groucho Marx’s comment “The secret to life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” 

…or perhaps I’ve got it all wrong:  we don’t crave connection; we don’t hold sincerity and authenticity in high esteem; we don’t want to trust and be trusted; and we don’t want to give and receive compassion.

What say you?




Love to, but…

by Maggie Delbon

“It’s so fabulous to reconnect with you after all these years! We have so much to catch up on. I want to know everything you’ve been doing.”

“Catching up would be fun. Let’s schedule a coffee to do that, OK?”

“I’d love that. It’s just that I’m really busy and have no idea where I’d find the time.”

Yikes! What just happened here??!

Words like “fabulous” and “love” are big hugs of welcome. So are the smiles and eye contact.


“Have no idea where I’d find the time” is the welcome door slamming shut.

To me, saying “I don’t have the time” means “I won’t make the time because it’s not important to me.

And that’s OK.

What’s missing is authenticity.

Hearing “It’s good to see you again. It’s been a long time” is a simple yet authentic social pleasantry without commitment or insincerity, and works just fine for me if there’s no interest in renewing the connection.

What say you? Have you had similar encounters? What did you do? How did you handle it?