Adapt your Authenticity

Authenticity - not such a fixed state as you might think.
To be a truly effective communicator who can lead others you need to be authentic whilst also able to conform.
You need to adapt your authenticity.  
Authentic leaders need to respect conformity - surprisingly!  How does this work?

Let's start with the word 'Authentic'.

Like many other current buzzwords - it is chucked about but rarely explained in terms of why, what and how.

There is a danger that far from feeling like a positive quality to aspire to, 'being authentic' feels like a slightly confusing chore.

This post looks at the finely tuned balance between being true to yourself whilst also being aligned to cultural norms  - a balance needed if you wish to achieve shared understanding and motivation.

Why Should Anyone Be Led By You

My thoughts on this were given clarity when reading my latest book purchase!

This is the book - 'Why Should Anyone Be Led by You?' by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones

To illustrate this in a real context, let's look at 3 different leadership styles - with one being very much more effective than the others.

1. The Authentic non-conforming Leader

Likely to come out with phrases like:

  • 'Not my style I'm afraid!'
  • 'This is me - like it or lump it'
  • 'Let's shake things up around here'

2. The Conforming non-authentic Leader

Likely to show the following characteristics:

  • Frustrated and moody
  • Fearful of offering a new perspective
  • Difficult to get to know

3. The Authentic conforming Leader

Likely to show the following characteristics:

  • Adaptability
  • Good listener
  • Engaging and inspiring

You will agree that leader number 3 is likely to get the best out of the team.

Developing this authentic/conformity balance will help you create shared understanding, motivation and respect. Goffee and Jones describe conformity blended with authenticity as 'clever conformity'.

Here are the main tactics to achieve this balance:

  • Own, and make use of your intrinsic differences
  • Use appropriate self-disclosure
  • Understand the constraints
  • Conform just enough to get traction

And finally

Take a look at the 'freeze-please-tease model' explained by Goffee and Jones from the book I referenced earlier:

Some individuals are so in awe of their destination that they freeze - losing the very leadership attributes that took them there in the first place.  Others attempt, inauthentically, to ape the cultural mores of their new social context: they please. These, too lose their leadership capability.  The most effective groups are those who retain their authenticity but make some cultural adjustments to their new social milieu.  In other words, they tease, retaining their authenticity, but acquiring enough of the behaviors of their new situation to be able to operate effectively - and critically - to achieve their purpose.


I help individuals communicate with confidence, clarity, engagement and purpose - and enjoy it! Ask about my 'Director's Chair Coaching' programme for business owners and Individuals within organisations. We work 1:2:1 over a period of time for embedded learning with tangible results.

Connect on LinkedIn - I look forward to getting to know you.

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How to be Authentic

Trisha Lewis

I help people become more effective communicators through the kind of coaching that offers a safe space to explore and rehearse and better understand the impact they have. My blog is full of insights and tactics that will help you break down the barriers that prevent you from being a truly effective communicator. These insights are based on my own experience as well as the issues raised during coaching sessions and workshops.

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