I'm in the business of evaluating and matching people's skills and talents with growing companies. The skills used to recruit people blend science and art. It requires a keen understanding of human behavior and a quality of discernment. I immediately spot the genuine, down to earth, tells-it-like-it-is professionals from the "posers" or masqueraders the moment they walk into a meeting. One of the first things I communicate to candidates is "be you." I find that people are more effective when they are themselves. When we approach situations as "real," drawing on all our talents and experiences, this applies to all levels of the hierarchy, whether you are a leader, an employee, or you just landed your first job, being genuine is not an act. It comes from inside us.
It's the time of year when we are going to costume parties, parades, or accompanying our kids trick-or-treating. But a human-centric organization revolves around real people, not super-heroes. Every component of an organization should be humanized, acknowledging that employees, customers, and agents are real people with daily life struggles. So when we put on corporate masks we are in danger of taking away the essential requirement for success -- trust. The masks of the "corporate superhero" or the "perfect employee" are often born out of unrealistic expectations, as we try to act the role without the credibility to pull it off. We live in a "doing world" and are often encouraged to "get into action" regardless of our personal preferences and intellectual property. Often, admitting mistakes is seen as bad, and we do anything to avoid being seen as imperfect. We find it difficult to be ourselves. After all, there can be consequences.
The age of heroic leadership may be coming to an end. The leader who leads from the front, knows all the answers, doesn't listen to dissent from the team, and is driven by a strong ego, is being challenged left and right. Yesterday's leaders, such as Sam Walton, Jack Welsh, and Steve Jobs (although all great influential game changers who started and ran innovative empires), have given way to the era of community communicators. These new leaders from Facebook, to Twitter and Pinterest, empower the individuals.
According to Scott McCallum, president of shopper marketing, N.A. at Geometry Global, "The 'hero' no longer knows all the answers because the answers are coming at us from a multitude of directions, and all the answers are distilled down to a personal level." McCallum goes on to say, "Business is complicated, and as a leader, you can't have all the information at one time. You no longer can make a decision just upon the information that's in front of you. It's like watching the news. Each channel has the same story, but they are reporting it slightly different. Speaking candidly with your team and finding out who's got the pieces and then artfully pulling together all the information is a big part of the leader's job."
By learning to be ourselves in business, we can learn from each other and better talk to our clients and consumers. By being malleable and open, and by listening and being spirited, we become more flexible and more tolerant of others' styles. Authenticity enables us to access all of our skills and capabilities and to call on a wide range of experiences. The more genuinely we behave, the more we tap into who we are, and the more convincing, passionate, and assertive we become. Jon Miller, vice president of marketing and co-founder for Marketo, states, "There is a trend towards humanness in business. We need to be more conversational; we need to engage in dialogues and not diatribes; being human is more listening and responding to what you're hearing."