The December issue of Harvard Business Review contained an article discussing the contradiction leaders face in their attempt to be authentic. A good read for anyone in a leadership position.
Leaders and followers both associate authenticity with sincerity, honesty, and integrity. It's the real thing–the attribute that uniquely defines great managers. But while the expression of a genuine self is necessary for great leadership, the concept of authenticity is often misunderstood, not least by leaders themselves. They often assume that authenticity is an innate quality–that a person is either genuine or not. In fact, the authors say, authenticity is largely defined by what other people see in you. As such, you can to a great extent control it. In this article, the authors explore the qualities of authentic leadership. To illustrate their points, they recount the experiences of some of the authentic leaders they have known and studied, including the BBC's Greg Dyke, Nestle's Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, and Marks & Spencer's Jean Tomlin. Establishing your authenticity as a leader is a two-part challenge. You consistently have to match your words and deeds; otherwise, followers will never accept you as authentic. To get people to follow you, though, you also have to get them to relate to you. This means presenting different faces to different audiences–a requirement that many people find hard to square with authenticity. But authenticity is not the product of manipulation. It accurately reflects aspects of the leader's inner self, so it can't be an act. Authentic leaders seem to know which personality traits they should reveal to whom, and when. Highly attuned to their environments, authentic leaders rely on an intuition born of formative, sometimes harsh experiences to understand the expectations and concerns of the people they seek to influence. They retain their distinctiveness as individuals, yet they know how to win acceptance in strong corporate and social cultures and how to use elements of those cultures as a basis for radical change.
"Managing Authenticity: The Paradox of Great Leadership"
by Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones
Harvard Business Review, December 2005
Available (for purchase) from HBR's website.