Scarlet Thinking and Authenticity

Scarlet Thinking and Authenticity

Authenticity as a Leadership Competency


authenticityDefinition of Authenticity as a competency: knowing one’s values and being recognised for having them.  Open and able to use personal stories, even vulnerability, but at the right moments without compromising on respect and reputation.

Phew! Out of all of the Scarlet Thinking competencies, authenticity is the most elusive. At its core it is knowing ourselves and our values, and then acting on those values. Yet this often has to battle with workplace constraints and cultural context.  We may have adopted people pleasing behaviours to protect ourselves in childhood, or resorted to office gossip to fit in with company culture. These are hard habits to drop. Unraveling ourselves from all this can be a mammoth task.

Timing Your Authenticity

We also have the issue of appropriateness to contend with. It may be authentic to admit that you’ve just had a fight with your spouse, and so feel a little off the game that morning, but will it help your credibility? Perhaps historical enactments are a big part of your life outside work, but you know bringing that into the conversation will change people’s view of you…especially if you are working with a team of raving clubbers. Is keeping part of your life inauthentic or just discreet?

The answer will be different for everyone and every situation. However, an authentic leader does have some obvious qualities:

  • People “get them”. People understand their core, whether that’s honesty, gregariousness, caution etc. Who they are comes across with honesty and in every move or decision
  • They are not afraid to say “I don’t know,” or that this problem doesn’t have one solution, let’s work with what we can. Authentic leaders listen to others and bring that into decision making
  • They have a good level of self-awareness. Just like the team leaders on The Apprentice who step aside to let the sales people deliver the pitches, they pick the best person for the job, even if it’s not always themselves
  • People feel comfortable around them
  • They are open enough. That means you know a little about their lives but not down to the last detail. They share enough to build trust and still retain space around themselves

Authenticity is impossible to fake. We can usually sense someone is inauthentic long before we put that into words. It’s not always a nefarious state of affairs. People are often nervous, unsure of themselves and their performance. They may even be bringing something from their past into the situation. What we shouldn’t do is judge, and yet, nevertheless, an inauthentic person will still get those alarm bells going.

authenticity and your pathHow can we become more authentic?


  • Knowing yourself is key to this so be prepared for some self-development work
  • You can start with exercises to find your values, asking yourself questions like when was I most happy, most at ease, most fulfilled?
  • Look at people you admire and try and work out why. What values do they have that you share?
  • If you are bringing deep-seated issues to the workplace, consider therapy
  • Coaching can help you let go of behaviours like people pleasing
  • Notice when you feel at your most authentic
  • And when you feel you are not
  • Informally ask others how you come over to them. Is this what you expected?
  • Do a formal 360 in the same way and consider what you find.

Questions to ask yourself


  • When do I feel my most authentic?
  • What issues are non-negotiables for me?
  • When do I feel inauthentic?
  • Are there people with whom I feel totally authentic?
  • Likewise, are their people with whom I do not feel authentic?
  • What can I do to show people more of the real me?

This is an interesting article around authenticity. When is being authentic too much?  There is a nice little assessment at the beginning too.



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