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09.07.2024 By Meghann Johnson

Why Authenticity Is a Superpower in Navigating Complexity for Companies and Leadership.

In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected world, authenticity isn’t just a buzzword – it’s a necessity. For corporations, and especially for executives and leaders, being authentic can make the difference between fleeting success, potential reputational challenges and lasting impact. But what does authenticity truly mean, and why is it so crucial?

The Corporate Authenticity Edge

For corporations, authenticity equates to a genuine alignment between their mission, values, and actions. It’s paramount that organizations not only translate what they stand for and believe in but also reflect and align with those very same values in how they act in the world.

To start, companies must do some “corporate soul searching” to understand what makes their organization unique, how that’s different from their competitors, and what their audiences expect from them to ensure they are showing up authentically (and not setting themselves up for scrutiny down the line). Simply put, when companies are authentic, they build trust with their customers, employees, and stakeholders, and this trust is invaluable, leading to increased loyalty, better employee engagement, and stronger customer relationships.

To underscore this point, a study by the Harvard Business Review found that 64% of consumers cite shared values as the primary reason they have a relationship with a brand. Smart brands understand this connection, too, creating programs and activations that authentically motivate their customer base. In the case of consumer-facing companies, it’s clear consumers aren’t just buying products; they are buying into what a company stands for. So, when a company clearly articulates its values and consistently acts in alignment with them, it creates a powerful connection with this important audience.

On the flip side, companies that fail to be authentic risk serious reputational damage, especially when their actions do not comply with the heart of their brand or what their customers expect from them.

Personal Authenticity in Leadership

For executives and leaders, authenticity is equally important. More than ever, people expect corporate leadership to serve as the face of an organization, providing human touchpoints and connection with a brand, its mission and its values.

With that, it’s equally important that these leaders are authentic – both within the context of the role they serve and who they are as individuals. Crafting and articulating their own voice, viewpoints, and priority topics is key to supporting the mission of their organization while also connecting with their audiences in ways that resonate and reinforce who they are as a person – and ultimately why what they say matters and why anyone should believe it to be true!

When thinking about executive communications, it’s critical to understand the topics important to the leader and how they align with their priorities and passions. This is of utmost importance in connecting with people on real, human levels.

For example, research by Korn Ferry suggests that employees – an extremely important audience – are 32% more likely to be engaged at work when their leaders are authentic. This engagement translates to higher productivity, better morale, and lower turnover rates. Authentic leaders inspire their teams by being genuine and approachable, which helps to create a positive and supportive work environment.

The Path to Authenticity

When leaders and corporations are not authentic, the risks are manifold. Inauthenticity can lead to a disconnect between what a company or leader says and what they do, resulting in cynicism and distrust. This disconnect can be particularly damaging in the age of social media, where consumers and employees are quick to call out inconsistencies and dishonesty.

So, how can corporations and leaders cultivate authenticity?

  • Understand and Articulate Your Values: Clearly define your core values and purpose. What do you stand for? What are your non-negotiables? Ensure that these values are communicated consistently within all communications.
  • Align Actions with Values: It’s not enough to state your values; you must live them. Make decisions that reflect your values, even when it’s challenging. This alignment builds trust and demonstrates your commitment to authenticity.
  • Be Transparent: Transparency is key to authenticity. Be open about your successes and failures. Share your journey, including the challenges and setbacks, with your stakeholders. This openness fosters trust and respect.
  • Engage with Your Audience: Listen to your customers, employees, and other stakeholders. Understand their perspectives and concerns. Engaging in meaningful dialogue shows that you value their input and are committed to continuous improvement.

In the end, authenticity is not a destination but a journey. For corporations and leaders, authenticity requires a deep understanding of values and purpose, consistent actions, and transparent communication. By embracing authenticity, companies can build stronger connections with their audiences, foster greater engagement, and avoid the pitfalls of inauthenticity.

In a world where trust is more precious than ever, authenticity is the key to lasting success.

References:

  1. Harvard Business Review. “The Power of Aligning Your Brand with Your Values.”
  2. Korn Ferry. “The Impact of Authentic Leadership on Employee Engagement.”

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