On Being an Authentic Manager

In the absence of trust, it is difficult to find our authentic selves.  The new born child has absolute trust in the world; hoever, over time our innocence is protected by an increasingly thick veneer that also erodes our true sense of self.

In the absence of trust, it is difficult to find our authentic selves. The new born child has absolute trust in the world; however, over time our innocence is clouded by an increasingly thick veneer that simply causes us to behave differently.

What does being authentic mean? You are the real thing, you are integral, you are true to yourself, you are on contract with yourself, you are what you appear to be.

Although I am focusing upon the manager in this article, this article is relevant for both managers and line workers. Why?  Because being true to yourself is absolutely essential.  Think of yourself as the manager of the work you are currently doing, and with the right career planning and attitude to your work, you will one day aspire to a management position.

A side comment:  I find it absolutely fascinating how the rate of change in the world is so dramatic that we cannot envision the new paradigm required to address a change before we embark upon the journey intended to implement it.  Hmmm!

When I first started working, I was just happy to have a job. Imagine they chose me! And I will do all that I can to reinforce their belief in me. To my managers, what I can do is important. Who I am and how this can strengthen performance over time is not even on the screen in most organizations.  This post addresses this issue — how “who I am” can profoundly influence “what I and others can do”.

I came across a TED presentation that helped me to put into words how the business environment is evolving. This talk by Joseph Pine, entitled “What Consumers Really Want” (February, 2004) helped me to put into words the evolving relationship between managers and employees .

In the early years of my career, management was an extremely unsophisticated concept.   There was little consideration about manager capacity or how to develop managers.  They seemed to be the best, usually based upon their ability to deliver product and so they were accorded the right to oversee a group of employees.  They knew little about people so they focussed upon supplying product and controlling costs. If they were found to be wanting they were fired or returned to their previous duties.  If they seemed to be good deliverers of product, quite independent of what happened to their employees, they were anointed and rewarded.

In the 1980’s,  when efficiency became essential for business survival, the new business approach targetted the quality of services and products.

In the technology age, generations X and F are quick to tell us that the failure of organizations to adapt to the burgeoning social networking frontier will quickly make dinosaurs of their businesses.

Everything in an organization will be strengthened if managers invest in the experience of reinventing product delivery. Edward de Bono in his book entitled  Sur/petition also speaks about the evolution of the marketplace; he mentions three stages: product or service, competition and integrated values.  Just as product or service was supplanted by competition in the 80’s, competition was later trampled by the capacity of “outlier” organizations who found a formula for distancing themelves from their previous competition.  To paraphrase de Bono, would you rather run with the pack or lead the pack?  Coming from the world’s foremost creativity guru, it is truly about your organization’s capacity to out think and then use this new knowledge to breakaway from the competition.

This is where our authentic capacities kick in.  I believe that our authentic capacities would allow us to see, understand, accept and act with authority to create authentic organizations.  The problem, of course is that many managers resist or deny the need to be authentic.  They have allowed their allegiances, their training, their backgrounds and their fears to influence their thinking and as a result the success of their organizations.

It is worth noting that de Bono, in “Sur/petition” has focussed on the business environment, although the need for his “integrated values” methodology is just as vital in other sectors.  In business, if you fail to keep up, you disappear; in the public sector, as an example, failure is easier to disguise.

Here are three suggestions for the evolving authentic manager:

  • Take some time to think about what your organization is doing. Ask yourself if you are competing or if you are an outlier?  If you decide that you are merely competing, then there is room for innovative thinking.  Typically, organization’s reflect on their corporate documents once per year.  Make review an open file.  Remain committed to the delivery of product because you are a team player; however, keep sending those ideas to the top.  I can assure you that the authentic CEO will notice and appreciate your commitment.
  • Shed your protective veneer. So you can’t open up yet?  Join the club; let’s face it — we are all products of our lifelong experiences.   You have probably been scarred by deception, persecution and disappointment; you have learned, particularly on the job, that survival is job one and trust is a commodity in short supply.  I hear your pain and your anger; however, this is no way to manage your life or your career.  The usual response to these painful emotions is to surround yourself with a veneer, a bubble of protection, a safety zone. “As long as I do my job and I don’t upset anyone the world will evolve as it should”. Not.  The world will evolve correctly if you are true to yourself and others.  Shed your veneer.
  • Monitor your authentic behaviour. The nice part of being an authentic manager is that you know in your heart that you are making integral decisions.  Quite simply you are doing the right thing.  The best part of this equation is that it feels good and you are having fun.  Take the time to observe how your behaviour is affecting others.  In most cases, you will find that this form of leadership will become infectious.  As the word spreads, employees in other parts of the organization will look for openings in your area.  Other managers will solicit your views on their management challenges and you will become mentor and coach.  It may also be wise to monitor those in your organization who perceive you as a threat.  Still you decision to be authentic has been affirmed by other employees and managers.

The authentic manager is a vital resource for organizational “thrival” — the one who searches for truth and behaves will absolute integrity. Novel concept.  Please let me know what you think.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *