Being Too Authentic Can Hurt Your Leadership Identity

Dateline: February 13, 2015

Welcome to our Friday WRAP – one thought-provoking idea to think about over the weekend.

In a recent article at, Professor Herminia Ibarra suggests that leadership identity is something we all have to carefully craft, and all too often we try to be authentic in a way that undermines our leadership opportunities.  In her article, The Authenticity Paradox, Herminia shared three ways authenticity can get in the way.

Being true to yourself.  Which self? We have many selves, depending on the different roles that we play in life.  We evolve and even transform ourselves with experiences in new roles.  How can you be true to a future self that is still uncertain and uninformed?

Maintaining strict coherence between what you feel and what you say or do.  You lose credibility and effectiveness as a leader if you disclose everything you think and feel, especially when you are unproven.

Making values-based choices.  When we move into bigger roles, values that were shaped by past experiences can lead us astray.  For instance, “tight control over operating details” might produce authentic but wrong-headed behavior in the face of new challenges.

She suggests leaders try on different leadership identities,

Fortunately, there are ways of increasing outsight and evolving toward an “adaptively authentic” way of leading, but they require a playful frame of mind. Think of leadership development as trying on possible selves rather than working on yourself—which, let’s face it, sounds like drudgery. When we adopt a playful attitude, we’re more open to possibilities. It’s OK to be inconsistent from one day to the next. That’s not being a fake; it’s how we experiment to figure out what’s right for the new challenges and circumstances we face.

What is your leadership identity?  How do you incorporate authenticity into your leadership identity?

That’s a WRAP!  Have a great weekend.

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