Of undisputed origin; genuine” (Google.com)
Authenticity is one of those words that seems to be tossed around within business circles quite a lot as of late. Like Executive Presence, there can sometimes be confusion in regards to its definition within a corporate context. When we speak of authenticity, we are really referring to a person’s true self. Are they genuine or are they putting on a show? Authenticity, or the quality of being authentic, is one of the core characteristics of a leader.
Warmth: A Key Component of Authenticity
More often than not, we can spot authenticity from a mile away, just like we can with Executive Presence. What often accompanies authenticity is warmth (of course, this is not always the case!). This warmth factor, or the ability to build trust, is an incredibly important element when it comes to relationship-building. Exuding warmth is a key component of charisma, and allows us to connect better and faster with others. As a result, when we are authentic, as well as warm, we are providing ourselves with the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level and to build critical relationships.
Warmth Versus Competence
According to Amy Cuddy and her associates, experts on body language, first impressions and power posing, when we meet someone, whether for the first time or the fifth, we immediately try to show our competence. This makes sense, as we want others to know how smart we are, how well we know our stuff, how successful we’ll be with this new task. The problem is that when we meet someone else, we’re not immediately concerned about his or her competence, but rather the ability to know if we want a relationship with that person or not. This is clearly an issue, as we tend to present ourselves the way we think others want to perceive us – showing our competence – when in fact we should be doing the exact opposite – showing our warmth and our ability to connect personally with others.
As expressed by Cuddy and her team, we typically encounter either Lovable Fools (high warmth, low competence) or Competent Jerks (low warmth, high competence). For example, a Lovable Fool might go into a job interview that she’s slightly underqualified for. Nonetheless, she interviews well, shows her warmth and authenticity, and expresses a desire to learn more and expand her knowledge. On the other hand, the Competent Jerk might go into the interview with the right qualifications, and exhibit no warmth and show no desire to work with others on the team. Who do you think the interviewers will choose? The one who exhibits warmth and the desire to work with others, who can learn to increase her competence, not the know-it-all! When we have a choice, we chose the Lovable Fools over the Competent Jerks. In a perfect world, we’d get the Lovable Stars, and that’s rare!
How does this apply to authenticity? As Corinne Lavictoire, a CCI Associate, said in a recent video: “[Your audience] wants you to be memorable, not perfect.” When we try to show our competence first, we are attempting to show how “perfect” we can be and are not focussing on our lasting impression on others. This is an issue, as that is not how one builds trusting, lasting relationships! Remember, authenticity → warmth → trust → better relationships. Being authentic and showing warmth are core characteristics of a good leader.
For more information on how you can increase your authenticity and capacity to build trusting relationships in business, take a look at our courses and workshops! In addition, check out our blog post: “The Top 4 Leadership Qualities That Make A Great Leader” to read more about trust.