Transparency versus Authenticity: Which is More Powerful?
In my daily world, there is a new buzz word. It’s “transparency”. Transparency in business can mean many a thing, from the open disclosure of certain policies to a company’s public constituents or its own employees, to public statements and press releases, to dialogues between manager and employee, etc….
I should qualify that my daily world consists, in large part, of dealing with business – building business, making organizations stronger, smarter and more productive, and ensuring that the most important assets of an organization –its people – are fulfilled, educated, successful and working to their strengths.
But, I would argue that – the focus is on the wrong word.
The quality of being genuine or not corrupted from the original; Truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, and intentions; The quality of being authentic (of established authority)
Authenticity is correlated to transparency – where there is a lack of transparency, there is sure to be the absence of authenticity. In the place that authenticity does not exist, neither can transparency. In fact, I would be bold enough to say that authenticity is a pre-cursor to transparency, in business and in life.
Case Study 1: the Business Scenario
You are working to a deadline, 10-12 hour days, meetings abound, your focus is unwavering. But, let’s face it – when the adrenaline ebbs, exhaustion and frustration flow. Yet, you keep smiling, portraying that ‘A is for Attitude’ team player role and smiling humbly when your superiors tell you what a great job you’re doing. Meanwhile, said superiors are going about their own business, stressed out by deadlines currently unknown to you but soon to be your next project; and they, too, keep smiling. A simple “How are you?” in the hallway is met with “I’m GRRRRREAT! Life is good!” But is it?
For a truly authentic person, i.e. he/she who knows his/her own truth and is not afraid to live it and express it, life may not be great at that moment. It may, in fact, be stressful, tiring and a means to an end. And, displaying the human emotions of exhaustion, fear and perseverance as a result should not be frowned upon. I would suggest that if these emotions were expressed and understood, perhaps more of us could feel acknowledged and subsequently empowered to keep going, instead of flattened like the product of a silicon rolling pin. Yet, when met with the Mr. Superficial and Ms. Inauthentic on the management team, all of a sudden transparency becomes opaque and authenticity unacceptable. Whether willing to admit to it or not, we are starving for and striving for some measure of authenticity. We want our leaders, colleagues and everyone with whom we interact on a professional basis to simply be themselves and live the truth.
Why is something so simple so difficult to achieve? Perhaps the pandemic of inauthenticity derives from a ubiquitous crisis of confidence. ‘CYA’ surpasses ‘Be Yourself.’ We are often taught, subliminally, that it is more important to be accepted, liked, and approachable than to be true. In fact, there are studies occurring to this end, on what has been coined as “Organizational Silence” – when you know or feel a truth yet dare not speak it; when employees realize that what is required is to put the organization’s well-being before one’s own. Some may fear looking unintelligent, being chastised or ridiculed by one’s superiors, losing an already tenuous grasp on perceived power, that validating someone’s honesty may result in one’s own professional demise. These forces and emotions occur at all levels within organizations; as a result, ironically, this “silence” is inbred and reinforced at all organizational levels.
Similarly, shades of “Organizational Silence” are not solely present in the business world. Enter:
Case Study 2: Life
Shades of societal silence are cast upon us in childhood and travel with us into our adult relationships and family life. We are taught to be non-confrontational, not to cause a fight, to be loyal to family just because they’re family even when they may act like foes, and to “pick our fights” in relationships instead of expressing how we really feel and unlocking the doors to authentic communication. Unless….perhaps if we are blessed to have role models who are authentic, who do not fear the repercussions of integrity and expressions of truth – then we may not only overcome but also outgrow the legacy of societal silence that is cast upon us and ultimately mature into fully transparent, confident and authentic role models ourselves.
Authenticity is about enjoying a new sense of freedom to be who we really are—ourselves, natural and without a mask in our relationships, our work and our life. It takes courage, commitment and depth.
~ Mike Robbins, Author of Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken
In many ways, being authentic – which we have already established leads to being transparent – takes courage, vulnerability, inner strength and confidence. So, no, it’s not for the weak-knee’d nor faint of heart, but it is for anyone wishing to break down walls of inner turmoil and shed superficial skin. Just remember, if you’re true to yourself – you will expend far less effort trying to be something you’re not to someone who probably isn’t being real either. When presented with the choice to be authentic, take it and let the light of truth which shines from you illuminate the path for those watching from behind…
Wishing You Success,