I’ve seen a lot of leaders talk about bringing more authenticity to their work. They’re trying to show off more of their personalities, be more transparent, and drive to be more true to their purposes. But, in all of the presented authenticity, I noticed something: Leaders are shying away from actually being honest. 

There’s a difference, I think, between honesty and authenticity. Sure, there are some similarities, but I think there are a lot of ways in which those two words are demonstrably not the same. I think it comes down to the pressure of presentation. There’s a fear to show vulnerability and appear less than perfectly polished, which often removes honesty from the conversation. 

The price of being honest isn’t the same as the price of being authentic. Sometimes, the pressure to toe the line is too much to bear, and sometimes there’s too much focus on being perceived as having all the answers that being honest and off the cuff could go against that. In a new world, people are also often afraid to say the wrong thing. It’s a daunting thought, so it’s no wonder that so many leaders shy away from real honesty. 

Ultimately, authenticity is a choice, but it’s an easier choice for some more than others. It’s easy for a cisgendered white man to be authentic in a corporate environment, for example, but it’s a luxury not everyone can afford. Some people have to put on personas in order to blend in or thrive in certain situations and workplaces. Women, for example, are conditioned to be likable, and then face the gendered expectations around leadership.  

Honesty starts with self-awareness

But, there are some ways to practice honesty in your workplace that don’t involve massive sacrifices. Self-reflection and self-awareness are among the tools that could be extremely valuable in discovering it. Embracing vulnerability and developing emotional intelligence are also vital in order to be able to better navigate harder conversations.

It’s not just a small tweak, though, to lead with honesty. It requires a complete overhaul of the system. The first step in that process is feedback from those around you. Understanding what you can do better is vital in implementing change. We’re overwhelmed and resource-tapped as leaders in today’s corporate world, so choosing what we stand up for is more important than ever. Feedback can help us see ourselves more clearly, and help us define our honest direction. It will create resolution and stop people from leaving. In short, it will help leaders find themselves again. 

In my work with one-on-one executive coaching, I help leaders develop the mindset and skills needed to engage in constructive, honest and effective conversations with team members, peers and more. I help create a work environment that promotes open communication and helps find resolutions to conflicts in both in-person and hybrid environments. Book a call today if you’re ready to take the first step to become a more honest leader.