Clients, customers, and employees all share one unique quality: being human. As human beings, we know when someone is being genuine as opposed to speaking “corporate talk,” mouthing the words that relegate us to being a number rather than an individual.

We know the difference between rote, systematic adherence to policies and procedures and addressing personal needs with interest and compassion. We know when someone is being authentic. We know when they’re being real.

One of the greatest competitive edges in business today is authenticity. Professionals and companies that encourage practices based on this authentic truth immediately differentiate themselves from the competition.

The Strategy: Be Your True Self

In life, as in business, our feelings impact our decisions. Years ago, when purchasing an automobile, I decided to avoid the tumultuous dance of a salesperson having to “check with the manager” over and over again to win the sale. Before walking into the dealership, I put time into research and was competent and knowledgeable about my purchase. Rather than go through the car-buying tug of war, I gave my price and said, “Take it or leave it.”

Since that time, I’ve incorporated this method into many areas of my life. Today, this take-it-or-leave-it strategy has transformed into “Here is my true self. Accept me or not.”

For many years, I played the part of who I thought others wanted me to be: the high performer, successful executive, strong male figure, breadwinner, husband, and father. Years of subduing my true self brought only unhappiness and a sense of dread. I felt a falseness that others would pick up on, a constant undercurrent in our interactions. When I was able to start sharing my real self as a unique and loving person, people around me began to have a very different experience.

While better products, improved customer service, and operational excellence are important attributes for a successful organization, authenticity separates the “good” from the “amazing.” It’s at the heart of the work we center on in supporting our clients and the companies they lead. Dare to be honest. Build strong ethics and integrity for yourself and your organization. Authenticity changes the playing field in a big way.

Here are five reasons to gain this competitive edge:

1. Authenticity ignites human connection

Human beings are highly complex, superconductive, electromagnetic miracles. The flow of positive energy increases when we are honest and genuine. You are never better, stronger, more creative, or compelling than when you are your true self. The energy you possess and emit connects you with your employees, your customers, and those you care for.

2. Authenticity opens the door to vulnerability — and unity

When we are vulnerable, we drop the false trappings of title, status, and formality. Human beings want to connect. Living in a way that’s open and honest, even while acknowledging your shortcomings and mistakes, is life-affirming and builds unity. Great leaders show their humanness, dropping the corporate guard and standing with those being led.

3. Authenticity allows you to learn about others, including your customers

If you live your life on the fringes—always being afraid of opening up, letting fear be the guide as opposed to love and compassion—you miss out on the wonderful experience of learning and knowing others on a deeper, more meaningful level. Being authentic creates room for others to do the same. Leadership is best delivered by modeling what you seek from others.

4. Authenticity moves you into the present

When you decide to show up as the real you, you have consciously moved into present, into a realm of real-time connections. Here, you are better able to make informed and enlightened choices, ones that uplift you and others. When you live in the present, you experience one interaction at a time despite the disruptive nature of a rapidly evolving digital world.

5. Authenticity changes your world perspective

When you no longer need to hide behind what others want you to be, say, or do, you put aside falseness and lies and open up to a world of endless and positive opportunities. Try it. You just might like it. Step into the full version of yourself.