We have been encouraged to be authentic, to bring our whole selves, to be who we are. In our pursuit to be more effective leaders, we are invited to show the courage to be vulnerable.

We should be willing to leave our own signature, footprint, fingerprint, and scent on what we do.

Let’s be real and realistic. There are both rewards and risks to be considered in doing this and there are ways to manage and leverage both.

Consider the following three suggestions.

Blocks spell out REAL


Know yourself

This is not limited to knowing who you are in terms of strengths and development opportunities in a given setting. It includes this and an understanding of how you interact with others, which includes you influencing others and others influencing you.

What does it look like when you are at your best? What does it look like when you are at your “rest of the time”?

Do you also know who you are in terms of “why” you do what you do?

Do you have a clear picture of what type of person you aspire to be in the future? Not what role you expect to fill, but what kind of person do you aspire to become?

Have you gotten feedback from others about what they recognize as “you”?

Action Items:

  • Get feedback from others on how they see you. Compare it with how you see yourself and want to be seen.
  • Map out your “why”. Craft a personal mission statement. Share it with others who know you and work with you. Make it visible for others to see.

Understand your risks and rewards

Organizations have explicit and implicit expectations they believe will contribute to their success. They encourage certain behaviors and discourage others. They show a range of tolerance that varies from one person to another and from one group of people to another.

The same is true of individuals given their biases and preferences, and teams and groups given their norms. How accurate is your read of the organization, group, and individual norms around you?

Is your goal to be “real” driven by the need to prove you are unique or to improve the organization’s effectiveness in achieving its objectives?

What has it cost you to avoid sharing key dimensions of who you are?

What does the organization lose by not having access to that part of you?

Will the rewards outweigh the risks?

Are you sure that knowing more about you and your difference will make a difference?

Action Items:

  • Clarify your personal goal in being more authentic. Be willing to make it situational in terms of when you are willing to share what.
  • Link the value of being more authentic to a specific organizational need/value.
  • Identify examples of others who have done what you consider doing.
  • Gather data, including voiced reactions from credible stakeholders about costs and benefits. Consider options for when, how, when, what, and with whom to share more.

Leverage how being YOU makes a difference to others

Consider the contradiction of being more authentic as a personal goal that is most effective when it meets an organizational goal.

How can you leverage your individuality to form more authentic relationships and build greater trust within your organization that leads to measurable business outcomes?

What can you share with others about the impact of their authentic self on team and organizational results?

Where should you and others be willing to adjust in order to accomplish organizational goals?

Action Items:

  • Outline the business case for being authentic
  • Invite others to share more of themselves
  • Actively solicit feedback about how others react to you sharing more of yourself


Being true to yourself, being authentic, is not driven by the need to prove to yourself and others that you belong even if you are different. It is driven by the desire to improve how much more you contribute and how much more the organization gains by seeing and getting more of you.

What will really work for you and the organization?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Be sure to leave me a message and share with your network. Thanks for reading.


Greg. Pennington, Ph.D.
Managing Partner
Pennpoint Consulting Group, LLC

Contact me with any questions: drgpenn@pennpointconsultinggroup.com

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