“I’d rather be a fake somebody than a real nobody.” — Tom Ripley, The Talented Mr Ripley.
I love that film. The irony is acted brilliantly. Duplicity or authenticity? As a leadership coach and business owner leading my own team, I have spent my life mastering authenticity — a truth based on personal daily and long-term intentions. It involves living by respectful human values and embracing a congruency between my inner thoughts and feelings, as well as my actions. I don’t get it right all the time, but there’s merit in trying.
Screaming out for accurate information
We all seem to be drowning in bad data and misinformation. We live and work in the fake-news era, and sometimes we feel like we can’t believe it all. We question its validity, and rightly so. I know I have.
There have been some prominent — and very public — fallings from grace in the news recently. In the past few months, ex-Fyre Festival CEO Billy McFarland and ex-Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes have been ousted for spreading their own, fraudulent narratives of misinformation to investors, consumers, and even the US government. They’re wonderful examples of the very best fraudsters. Inauthenticity in action. They epitomize voodoo leadership. They are able to sail through lie-detector tests because they don’t believe they are lying.
They have tapped into the golden age of the con — using social media to drive a brand that seems worth investing in. It’s the illusory truth effect. The more you repeat a lie, the more people will believe it to be true. We’re all guilty of this to some degree, but why do leaders who might posses genuinely game-changing ideas go this route?
We live in a world where success is defined by achievement
My perceived status in the world, the people I know, the wealth I have created, the degree of influence I have, the number of followers, likes, and shares I get on social media. All of this is imaginary, right? It isn’t real.
Yeah sure, having that fancy house in the south of France is real. Or the Aston Martin in the driveway, too. But the perceived idea of success – the status – isn’t real. Knowing yourself, trusting yourself, and being yourself — that is real — and a sign of true leadership.
Putting on a show to grow your business
In business, I sometimes hear that you have to fake it ’till you make it. “We must create the right brand online,” I hear. “We must become a ‘thought leader.’ A self-styled guru.” I don’t disagree with this if the intention is right. But to what extent are you being truthful? The real you? And how does this public persona feed into your leadership style? If you tell everyone that you can revolutionize blood testing or host the most luxurious festival the world has ever seen despite knowing these claims aren’t possible, it won’t suddenly make these things possible. What happens behind the scenes counts.
So can you set the tone for your specific industry by being real? Or are you just good at marketing spin?
How can leaders make themselves future-proof, if at all?
When I work with leaders, I’m not in the business of trying to turn them into something they’re not. I certainly don’t suggest ways to portray themselves as a thought leader, or a voodoo leader.
Instead, I aim to help leaders discover their truth, speak it and then live it. To uncover their authentic selves and their essence in every circumstance. Leaders must discover and believe in their unique creative power to influence. That’s how you’ll become a leader that stands the test of time. Being mindful, respectful and (it sounds obvious) lawful, will future-proof you and your business. Not just because you think you should do these things, but because they’re the right way of doing things.
By leading intentionally, you live truthfully — serving others by understanding human nature and embracing the combination of your thoughts, feelings and actions.
The hard way, but the right way
Being an authentic leader isn’t easy. That’s why so many Holmes-type leaders exist. It’s easier to lie your way to the top, but the faster you rise, the easier it is to fall. Instead, it’s all about the long game. You have to be observant. You have to notice how you are feeling and thinking and how you are responding to this. Crucially, you must become aware of the feelings, ideas and actions of others. This allows you to serve with intent. It’s an ongoing process and everyone is capable of doing it.
When we do this, we can let go of duplicity and embrace authenticity. We can let go of our attachment to status and perceived ideas of success. We can embrace a knowing of ourselves, trust ourselves, and stop portraying ourselves as something we are not.
Think of intention as an attitude of mind. Let your purpose drive your behavior, the way you communicate and how you engage with others. Ensure your intentions are underpinned by respectful human values.
Create a vision for yourself. Live this vision purposefully each day. Visualize how you’ll act each day. Then, take note of how your inner state of mind or attitude (your intention) matches your thinking and doing. Help others to do the same.
Duplicity or authenticity? Voodoo or truthful leadership? You choose.