The most pressing global leadership issue today is the challenge of authenticity. As corporations and organizations scramble to find their place in the world, the roads of integrity and ethics and vision all meet at the crossroads of cultural diversity. The challenge of that journey is that more and more, it comes at the expense of authenticity. The agenda of political correctness adds to the pressure for leadership to live with two sets of standards – their professional face and their private face. How does that work within the framework of experts like Stephen Denning who propose that telling truthful stories is a key principle to transformative leadership? Perhaps it is an undiscovered covenant to wed authenticity to the plethora of leadership qualities for our continually growing global society. Denning says it like this, “Generating desire for something different is the most difficult aspect of leadership . . . (p. 167).” It is with gratitude that this writing is classified as a blog. The blog gives permission for a reasonable amount of what I call “rough draft” thinking. That gives permission to come back with the eraser and say, “I need to wipe that piece out and rewrite to say (fill in the blank).” At the same time, a blog does not grant any less accountability for my words. With that slight disclaimer, please allow me to go back to the front of this writing and offer some explanation of what is meant by authenticity.
Merriam-Webster says authentic means, “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character (www.merriam-webster.com).” Diversity means, “the quality or state of having many different forms, types, ideas, etc. (www.merriam-webster.com).” Must the demands of diversity compel a surrender of authenticity? Baldoni uses a number of well-known individuals to narrate qualities of leadership, including Vince Lombardi, Mother Theresa, and Winston Churchill. A common quality that is attached to each of the role models is to “. . . live your message (Baldoni, p. 14).” Authenticity and living the message sets a platform for respectful differences. The goal of diversity is not to achieve homogeneity. We are not all the same. We do not live the same, think the same, or have the same experiences. Each person is their own story. It is not the goal of diversity to proselytize others.
My work as a prison chaplain has exposed me to a broad array of faiths, many of which have belief systems that directly oppose my spiritual beliefs. My role is not to convert, convince, or conflict with others. Living the message means that my authenticity gives me peace not only in my own identity but in allowing others to have their identity. My authenticity removes the contest element from life and gives me permission to say, “As I respect your story, I simply ask that you respect mine.” It is all right to express our differences. Diversity is intended to celebrate unique contributions but does not require us to surrender personal reality. Leaders must master their authenticity before they can embrace diversity.
Baldoni, J. (2003-06-16). Great Communication Secrets of Great Leaders (p. 14). McGraw-Hill. Kindle Edition.
Denning, S. (2007). Stimulating desire. The Secret Language of Leadership, 166-186. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.