Never Mind the Buzzwords

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know I get a little frustrated about how often we find ourselves making simple concepts difficult and generally jumping on the latest bandwagon or shiny new thing.

Lately, I am seeing more links and articles, books, books and checklists on authentic leadership. The concept has been around for a while I know, but there’s been plenty in my timeline of late.

There is plenty of information available tell you how to be an authentic leader. A quick Google search will give you a multiplicity of definitions for the term. Apparently it is all about being real, genuine, honest, open, true to yourself and your values. It is all about building trust.

One of the suggested explanations for what authentic leadership means, talks about bringing your true self to work. I like to think that I bring my real self to work every day: heck, I have a One Direction calendar up in the office. But what if my real, true, genuine self, underneath it all, authentic self looks a bit like this:

I will never get round to doing your performance reviews
I will sit on your expenses form and holiday requests for weeks
I will never get round to returning your calls or responding to your emails
I value a big fat pay cheque
I need lots of ego stroking
It’s all about me!

Because the problem with authenticity as a concept, is that it does not necessarily mean good. You be authentic and crap, all at the same time.

I’m not suggesting good leadership isn’t important. Of course it is. But we need more terminology, more checklists, more buzzwords, more versions of the same and new wine in old bottles like we need a hole in the head.

There is however one part of the dictionary definition of authentic that does feel right to me when it comes to leadership. Not a copy. Just like I’ve blogged before. Take that HR thing, that work thing, that leadership thing, and define it for yourself, where you are. Take the learning, the insights, the good examples, and make it your own.

So, can’t we just focus on making management and leadership better, and never mind the buzzwords?

And some more thoughts on the subject from Doug Shaw here.

2 thoughts on “Never Mind the Buzzwords

  1. Trouble is our brains seek out the easy route, the one of least resistance so it can conserve energy. So buzzwords, and TLAs even(!), are therefore so much easier for it to deal with, and quicker for us to say in our busy lives!

    I believe in authenticity and that it’s fundamental to success in any job where you sell stuff. Which, as we all know from Dan Pink, is pretty much all of us. Our limbic, emotional, brain likes authenticity because it’s feels right and non-threatening and so gives our rational brain the chance to catch up and process whatever it’s being told.

    But you’re absolutely right in that what’s authentic (and therefore good) to me, could be different to you. Whether that matters will depend on how well you do your job – and then the organisation will decide if you’re the right fit for their version of authentic or not!

    • I share your dislike of buzzwords Gemma (my own pet hate is how people keep referring to things as ‘surreal’!). One reason I do have a bit of time for people who talk about ‘authentic leadership’, however, is that I think it helps get across the message that leaders can have all sorts of different styles. I’ve worked with some excellent leaders, some charismatic, and some more understated. One of the good things about them was that they played to their strengths while developing their weaknesses. One leader I worked with – who had previously had a career in Sales & Marketing – was great at inspiring a crowd, another was more understated but convinced people through his straight talking, conversational style.

      I think it’s important for leaders to understand their own personalities and preferences and to make the best of these without trying to be something they’re not.

      Leaders can have a profound impact on the people who work for them. I’ll never forget many years ago when an MD filled out a 360% feedback survey on me and then gave me an hour of his time to discuss the results. I got an incredible amount from that experience and it got across the message to me that he was seriously concerned about leadership development, something we were pushing hard within the business at the time.

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