The Authenticity Factor

Chris Edmonds is the founder and CEO of the Purposeful Culture Group, which he launched after a 15-year career leading and managing teams.

“I don’t know which boss is going to show up each day – Jekyll or Hyde.” Or “She says one thing then turns around and does the exact opposite. We see it every day.”

In my work with clients around the globe, I hear about team members’ frustrations with their leaders all the time. These frustrations are often based on the leader’s lack of consistent authenticity.

We hear the term thrown around a lot, but do we know what it actually looks like to be authentic? defines authentic as “not false or copied; genuine; real.” To what degree are you genuine and authentic with your work colleagues – bosses, peers, and team members – in daily interactions?

The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2016 study says that 53% of employees list an employee’s relationship with his or her immediate supervisor as a top 10 contributors to job satisfaction.

Think back to a boss you have had that was truly great, and it is extremely likely that they demonstrated authentic care and service to you.
Think back to a boss you have had that was truly great, and it is extremely likely that they demonstrated authentic care and service to you. In other words, they interacted with no hidden agendas. There was no smoke and mirrors; there was simply honest discussion, transparent decision-making, and in-depth engagement.

Great bosses kept their commitments, delivering on their promises. If they are unable to keep their commitments, they tell us why, well in advance of the deadline. They also explain how they were trying to get back on track, as soon as possible.

If leaders don’t demonstrate behavioral integrity – keeping their promises and modeling the organization’s espoused values – they erode team members’ commitment and contribution. Tony Simons’ excellent research and book, The Integrity Dividend, found that employee’s commitment goes up when they observe behavioral integrity from their leaders. That causes employees to apply discretionary energy in service to their organization’s customers and goals.

The benefit? For one hotel chain, $250,000 annual profit growth for every 1/4 point gain on a 10 point scale!

There is another benefit to the leader’s authenticity. When leaders demonstrate authentic care, team members are much more likely to demonstrate authentic care with each other.

The coach of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich, is a player’s coach – team members love to play for him. He’s authentic and genuine. One way his genuineness plays out is that Popovich often devotes a portion of team meetings to the culture and history of team members.

In 2014, in the midst of preparations for the championship series with the Miami Heat, Popovich opened a meeting by leading a team discussion about Mabo Day. Point guard Patty Mills – an indigenous Australian native – was surprised and honored by the coach’s actions.

Popovich believes that knowing one another’s stories off the court binds team members together on the court. “It builds camaraderie. They feel connected and engaged and do better work.”

Authenticity matters. Genuine care matters. Be real, be honest, be available, be present. Only then can you build positive relationships, serve others consistently, and inspire aligned behavior and contribution.

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