Why adaptive authenticity is the key to success

Authenticity is considered to be key in everything related to professional advancement and successful leadership. Being authentic means to be true to yourself and your values, but in an ever changing role you experience, this can actually undermine your growth and success.

Paula is a great achiever, she was performing excellent and therefore was promoted to a leadership role overseeing her team. Right from the beginning she stayed true to herself and acknowledged to her team that she had no idea about some parts of her role as leader. What do you think happened? The team didn’t trust Paula as their leader despite her efforts to learn and grow into the things she had to learn.

What is authenticity?

Looking at authenticity from a very strict point of view can hinder your credibility and further growth.

Authenticity is staying true to yourself. In a new role that stretches your limits, and puts you in situations you didn’t experience before, what is your true self? As you’re growing, your true self evolves so be mindful and avoid Paula’s mistake of showing the “true self” of the person you are now, but not of the person you want to become. It’s better to hold off and adapt to what the ones around you actually need. Fake it till you make it, as long as you have a learning path in plan.

Authenticity is maintaining a strict coherence between what you feel and what you say or do. It’s easy to see how that can hinder your growth and advancement. You loose credibility when you disclose everything you feel, at any given time and around any audience.

Authenticity is also making value-based choices. Just that your values need to evolve and adjust to your new role. Micromanagement of operating tasks might have been good before you moved into the new role. Now it can be perceived as lack of trust, besides consuming way too much of the time you should be allocating to more important things.

What is “adaptive authenticity” then?

Adaptive authenticity means allowing yourself to stay true to the new person you’re transforming yourself into because of the new role, to make sure the whole experience will be a success. It means to have a playful mind, an open attitude and a learning mindset.

During this process, you’ll have to try on new ways. Some might work, some might fail. And that’s ok. You have to stop thinking that you’re being fake and inconsistent. Adaptive authenticity is about understanding that your true self is becoming something more, and that takes time, effort and a bit of error as well.

How to learn to be adaptively authentic to be successful?

There are a few key things you should consider in order to understand what adaptive authenticity really is and how to put this to work to be successful:

  1. Use multiple role models and learn from them. Yes, be a copy cat, but a smart one. Observe different styles, interact with them and learn from them. Try them on, and keep the styles that work best for you.
  2. Set goals for learning the things you are aware you need to learn. You will therefore avoid feeling like an impostor, as you know you’re on the way to getting to where you want.
  3. Evolve and re-write “your story”. Yes, you have successes that recommend you, you have “learning experiences”, moments that define you as who you are. Just that now you need to outgrow them, so leave room to experience new things and write new stories.

The only way to grow is by stretching your comfort zone, and therefore choosing authenticity as a safety net won’t help you at all in the way to success. Allow yourself to grow and understand that being authentic means so much more than sticking with your current self. Reach out to your new one, as new times and new roles need a new you.