The Authenticity Paradox
Professor Herminia Ibarra | 16:55
So I think we have reached peak authentic. I've been plotting how often the word authenticity appears in the business press, either in headlines or lead paragraphs, and this is what it looks like, an upwards line. It's tripled over the last 10 years. If you go on amazon.com, you can buy. About 20,000 books on how to be more authentic.
If you Google it, you'll get about 4 million workshops you can choose from on how to be yourself. So you know, from my point of view, clearly we have a problem if we have to spend so much money just to be ourselves. But the cost as I see it, is not just to our pocket books. I've come to conclude, uh, that the way we think about authenticity poses a real danger to our capacity to grow and learn.
Let me explain. So I teach and I research people who come to those points that I call, what got you here won't get you there moments. What got you here won't get you there. Those are those moments when whatever's made you successful in the past. What got you here? Is not gonna make you successful going forward there and may well just get in the way.
So, for example, say that you're fantastic at delivering results through your own efforts, but now you have to deliver results through other people. Or say you are an amazing analyst and you get promoted. And now your technical brilliance is getting in the way of your ability to communicate very simply with people who don't have the same technical training as you.
And what's tricky about these transition points is not that those new skills are hard to learn, it's that the old ones have become core to our sense of who we are, our identity. And so not sticking with them feels like we're somehow being inauthentic. And so we do, and we get stuck. Let me give you an example.
Um, Anna, one of the people who I talked to in the course of my research was the CEO of a midsize transportation company. She had been brought in, uh, from the outside to turn the company around and she. The results were great. Uh, they were profitable again, she had raised revenues, they had overhauled operations, but she was always finding herself across purposes with the chairman of the company.