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Discover Benelux  |  Business  |  Column

Are you authentic? Or should you try faking it? TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) has a new set of leadership values. There are five of them: Authenticity, Vision, Ownership, Achievement and Collaboration. This is a big improvement on the 13 leadership dimensions that one major international food company used to have. I never once met an HR manager there who could name all of them in one go, although I guess this is fair enough as I can never remember the names of all of the Seven Dwarfs. So ILM passes one of the KISS (Keep It Short and Simple) tests. It’s short; but is it simple? I understand that ‘Ownership’ nowadays is about taking responsibility and not your possessions. I assume that ‘Achievement’ is about getting things done. But what about ‘Authenticity’? I do not know whether I am authentic or not because I am not sure what it means. In any case, I am not sure I want to be authentic. The latest ILM magazine is not much help. It quotes Charles Hampden-Turner’s definition

of authenticity as being “what lies between people”. I will leave you to ponder that. Neena Dhaun in ILM Communications says she is authentic because she acts with integrity, builds trust and is open and honest. This does not fit the Oxford Dictionaries’ definition of ‘authentic’ which is “of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine” – nothing to do with values here. I guess the ILM is talking about being genuine but this does not convince me at all. Not only is ‘Authenticity’ lacking in transparency, but it also ignores a basic fact about becoming a leader: that when we lack the experience, knowledge, confidence or competence to do a job, we fake it. By this I mean that we pretend we know what we are doing. With determination we slowly master the sense of being an imposter and we learn from each new challenge successfully met. ‘Authenticity’ does not cover this at all and I do not think the ILM’s other values do either. Research done by Amy Cuddy and colleagues at Harvard validates my claim. In her

great TED talk on body posture, she tells us “you can make it if you can fake it” and “fake it until you become it”. So, I suggest that faking it gives us a more useful focus than authenticity. It certainly provides a new take on what George Burns said about sincerity: “If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their communication and leadership skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com.

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Discover Benelux, Issue 41, May 2017  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Discover Benelux, Issue 41, May 2017  

Promoting Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg.