The concept of authenticity is often oversimplified or misunderstood through superficial interpretations. Unfiltered emotions or opinions may be perceived as authentic, but this notion can be misleading. Leaders who exhibit hubris or overconfidence may also be mistakenly seen as authentic, further perpetuating the misconception.
Authenticity is a nuanced and complex concept that involves building a personal brand based on trust and respect from others. It requires self-awareness, the establishment of meaningful relationships, and respect for contextual boundaries. Authenticity is not simply a display of innate traits, but a process of personal growth and development that necessitates heightened emotional intelligence.
While authenticity is associated with staying true to one's core values and intentions, social and cultural contexts also shape our sense of self. Therefore respecting social norms is in fact authentic; it is a crucial aspect of building an authentic personal brand even though authenticity is often associated with disrupting and questioning social norms. An authentic personal brand values collaboration and fosters a strong sense of community spirit. These are two innate human values.
Anthropological studies have shown that humans are highly cooperative and altruistic, and this behavior actually led to the development of language and complex societies. For this reason, an authentic personal brand should not be a tool for self-gain, nor a justification to disrespect social rules or anti-social behavior. It actually requires our commitment to treating others respectfully and compassionately, grounding ourselves in self-awareness, and understanding contextual boundaries to guide our behaviors.
This commitment is long-term because building an authentic personal brand involves consistency. It's not enough to present an authentic version of ourselves on one occasion or in one area of our lives; our authentic selves (or brands) are revealed throughout all aspects of our lives consistently. Any dissonance in actions is likely to be picked up by colleagues and collaborators. To ensure consistency we have to strive to be accountable for our actions and decisions. Remember every decision we make, every interaction we have, and every piece of content we create and share contributes to the perception others have of us.
While accountability ensures the consistency of our actions, staying open to feedback and criticism will heighten our sense of awareness and accountability. It's important to seek feedback from people we trust and take it constructively, not defensively so that we can be proactive in correcting ourselves.
As we can see building an authentic personal brand requires us to be patient and persistent because it is an introspective journey. Introspection is not an overnight process; it will take time for us to develop courage in aligning our values and intentions through our actions and work and more time for others to perceive us as authentic. Our advice is to start now and keep working! You will start to notice the difference when your professional and social network is filled with others who share similar values and goals with you.