What’s Missing In Leaders Today?…Staying Authentic

“It’s amazing how you and I can have a ‘work me’ and a ‘home me.’

You can’t be yourself at both places.”

Dr. John Ng


“Authenticity is the alignment of head, mouth, heart, and feet – thinking, saying, feeling and doing the same thing – consistently.

This builds trust and followers love leaders they can trust.”

Lance Secretan


What do these people have in common: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Hybels, Bill Cosby, Beijing Buddhist Abbot Shi Xuecheng, Archbishop Theodore McCarrick? They all have been accused of sexual misconduct. There is a very dark side in their lives…


Before we start to pass judgment on them, it’s amazing how you and I can have a ‘work me’ and a ‘home me’. At work, you play a certain role, you behave a certain way, you have a certain personality because you have to live up to other’s or the organization’s expectations. You can’t be yourself. The only antidote to this is authenticity.


At home, you can be yourself. You lose your temper, you are easily annoyed, you are honest about your likes and dislikes (and you let it be known), you tell it like it is, you use words at home that you don’t use at work or vice versa. That’s why your children and spouse can see your hypocrisy.


Bill George, author of Discover Your True North, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, defines authenticity this way, “People of the highest integrity, committed to building enduring organizations… who have a deep sense of purpose and are true to their core values, who have the courage to build their companies to meet the needs of all their stakeholders, and who recognize the importance of their service to society.”[i]I like his definition.


He has found through his massive research on authentic leaders that if you truly want to live a meaningful great life, you need to discover your True North so that when you look back on your life, it may not be perfect, but it will be authentically yours.


All these seem so impossible. But if you begin to understand the different facets of being authentic, you begin the journey of greatness. When you do, you set the gold standard for humanity.


Until you can bring your whole self to work and home, you will always deceive yourself. The key is being and staying authentic. How do you stay authentic?


  1. Be Genuine.    

    You have to be true to yourself. You are not a copy or imitation. Or as one of my friends describes his boss, “He is solid gold, not gold-plated”.You are real. What you see is what you get at home and at work.

  2. Have Principles.  

    You are your own guiding compass: You have your own true North and you live by those principles and values at work and home. You live out your values and when you don’t, you apologize and make rectification.

  3. Being the Same Through Times.

    You are the same in good or bad times. You behave the same way in buoyant times or tumultuous times. You are unshakeable. My good friend, Lim Hua Min, Chairman of Philips puts it this way, “You are not a ‘just-a-time’ person but a ‘through-the-time’ person”.You are rock solid. You can be trusted whether the going gets tough or the tough gets going.

  4. Taking Ownership of Mistakes. 

    You take ownership for your wrong decisions and don’t play the blame-game or scapegoating. You have the courage to admit mistakes and you share the responsibility for any mistakes. You are not afraid to be corrected. In fact, you invite feedback.

  5. Becoming Creative.

    You have the guts to push boundaries and creativity. You question current status quo and you are willing to defend your position when questioned. You are constantly tested to deliver instant results versus long-term outcomes. You know what you can and what you cannot compromise in the short-term without jeopardizing the longer-term goals.

  6. Enjoying Learn.

    You are always learning and willing to share the learning with others in order to better yourself and the team. You know what you know and what you don’t know, that’s why you keep on learning. You are very self-aware of your own inadequacies and areas of incompetence as well as aware of your strengths and areas of expertise.

  7. Sharing Resources.

    You are willing to share your resources and network with people to enrich them without expecting any returns. You don’t expect people to do likewise but are grateful when they do so. You spend time developing people by sharing your values without expecting them to be cloned. You allow them to be themselves in their areas of expertise and career development except always to hold on to guiding principles and values that will make them great in the long haul.

  8. Having Situational Awareness.

    You are very situationally aware. You don’t burst out saying whatever you are thinking or feeling. You exhibit self-monitoring behaviors, understand how you are being perceived and you communicate the ‘truth in love’. You don’t embarrass others or chide people in public (children included) irrationally or reactively. You have good emotional intelligence. You are willing to be objective and applaud the successes of your people (even your enemies) and learn to share your glory with them, without feeling jealous or arrogant.

  1. Being Transparent.

    You are able to reveal yourselves appropriately in true humility, credibility and trust those around you to do the same. You have created the climate of transparency that people are willing to expose their true feelings in, without feeling judged or condemned.

  2. Influencing Others.

    You influence through your authenticity and compelling influence not through your clever manipulation, ‘carrot and stick’ strategy or veiled threats. You generate believability by being human. You demonstrate certain vulnerability and at the same time understand your genuine influence on others, without exploiting them for your personal ends or self-interest.


We need authentic leaders, who will live integrated life both inside and outside, both at work and at home. Only then, we can lead. How can we continue to live that in a world of double-life of pretense, challenging demands, and increased expectations? Share with me your thoughts….

[i]Bill George. Authentic Leadership:Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value. 2003. John Wiley & Sons.

Picture credits: http://www.mannaexpressonline.com/how-to-be-authentic/