Authenticity is our greatest superpower. To use our own voices in order to give shape to our own thoughts — there is no contribution more valuable than this.

But what is authenticity? Authentic people are true to who they are. They don’t make excuses for their shortcomings, and they don’t apologize for their preferences. They live in accordance with their values and never hide what they think. For that reason, other people tend to be drawn to them.

Although authentic people aren’t always the most well-liked due to their directness, they are often admired and well-respected. The most influential people live authentically while committing themselves to the collective good and striving to make a better world.

Achieving True Authenticity

A reputation for being authentic is valuable because it’s awfully difficult to achieve.

Remember, the basic premise of authenticity is that you’re comfortable being as you are. In the rush and competition of our modern life, most of us struggle with that because we’re not happy with who we are. We’re short-tempered, tired, and distracted. We’re not as kind or thoughtful as we’d like. Cultivating a state of authenticity requires us to put in the work so that we’ll be happy with ourselves and therefore content with being as we are.

We must be willing to go through a process of self-discovery and self-improvement, which can be uncomfortable. Not only must we find the courage to face down our demons, but we must also face challenging environments. Deepening our self-awareness and improving ourselves is a vulnerable process.

In our fast-paced, results-focused culture, we won’t always find ourselves in safe, supportive spaces, and when we don't, we need to be strong enough to stand up for ourselves. That’s where authenticity begins.

Authenticity in the Workplace

Some people will push back when you first undertake your journey toward authenticity, but ultimately, letting the real you shine through will help your career.

As someone who manages a team, I need other people’s support in order to be successful. Part of my job is making connections and getting buy-in from critical stakeholders. Without that, our initiatives can’t succeed.

Being true to myself helps in my work because it allows me to relate to people; I can empathize with them. They pick up on the fact that I’m being genuine, and that makes them trust me. Environments in which people are encouraged to be authentic tend to attract the most dynamic teams over time because everyone feels free to work together without negativity and harsh judgments. We’re all there for a shared purpose, and every member is empowered to bring their unique gifts to the table.

If you’re in a leadership position, you have a unique opportunity to promote authenticity within your organization. Here are some strategies for developing an authentic work culture:

1. Defuse problems early.

Since I began prioritizing authentic interactions, I’ve seen a drastic reduction in the time I spend dealing with conflicts. My team and I show up with our full selves each day, and because of that, we give one another the benefit of the doubt.

If a problem comes up, we don’t stew in our anger and frustration. We assume the other person has the best intentions, and we ask what’s going on and how we can help each other. This allows us to avoid a toxic culture of talking behind one another’s backs. Everyone is welcome to speak their truth in respectful, constructive ways.

2. Remember that candid conversations are often the most productive conversations.

My client relationships have transformed since I began emphasizing authenticity in my work. Because I am transparent and vulnerable with them, clients feel they can be the same with me. That allows us to get at the heart of what they need, and it allows me to more deeply connect with their long-term goals. As you might imagine, this leads to improved communication and far fewer revisions.

3. Encourage people to share concerns now, not later.

When people feel free to express themselves honestly, they are much more likely to report issues as soon as they notice them. This ensures that issues are addressed when they occur rather than fester until they manifest in resistance to change and collaboration.

If your employees feel comfortable voicing concerns, you'll catch potential problems before a new initiative is launched or you invest in an ill-fated project. Sometimes team members see what you don't and you want them to share their misgivings openly to avoid costly mistakes. In the book "Authentic Leadership: Courage in Action," Robert Terry puts it best: “Authenticity self-corrects.”

Developing a Daily Practice

Achieving authenticity requires a heightened degree of self-awareness and a lack of self-judgment. You need to understand and acknowledge yourself, flaws and all, before you can live and lead authentically.

An authentic life isn’t formed overnight, but it begins with a daily practice of observing your thoughts and behaviors and deciding whether they represent the real you beneath your stress and daily pressures. You’d be amazed at what a few minutes of journaling or mindful breathing will reveal.

The more you tune in to your authentic instincts, the more capable and effective you’ll be in your work and your life — and you’ll inspire others to do the same.

Author's Bio: 

Sona Jepsen is a writer and speaker helping people be so good, they can’t be ignored. She enjoys fixing and growing businesses. Sona is passionate about people and performance with purpose.