Authenticity as a Differentiator

Can the authentic behavior of a CEO or senior leader be a strategic differentiator?

In a word, YES, however it’s a little more complicated than just saying you are authentic or transparent within your work relationships.  If you are the CEO, or a member of the Senior Team, your job is to communicate authentically, showing your people what you do, how you do it, constantly demonstrating with your words and actions about your core values and core purpose.  Done well, this can truly be a differentiator in the competitive marketplace.

Can you articulate your WHY?  Can you go back in time and discover the real reason the company was founded in the first place?  If you are a leader but not the founder, can you communicate to others the purpose of the enterprise, the WHY, and the reason that you are spending most of your time there?  Are you constantly demonstrating the core purpose and core values, through your actions?  Are you aware of those that do communicate and demonstrate these ‘cores’ in your company, and are you rewarding them for this behavior in some way.  These people are your company evangelists, and you need to know who they are.

If your personal WHY is to draw a paycheck, then you are wasting your time, placing an undue burden on your fellow workers who are 'A' players, as Jim Collins calls them.  And you are slowly killing your company.  You need to figure out how to be an 'A' player somewhere else, because everyone can be an 'A' player at something.  You just need to figure out for yourself the ‘what and where’ sooner than later.

Our clients do a great job of hiring the 'A' players.  These are the employees that demonstrate both a high degree of productivity, and show a high percentage of alignment with the core values and purpose (mission/vision) of the company.  They are committed to and highly aligned with the purpose of the company.  Purpose is like the corporate DNA, the reason you exist as a company. It is always a higher purpose than generating revenue or profits.  It's more about the difference you are making in the world.

John Mackey, founder and CEO of Whole Foods Markets, has researched this topic, and has discovered four possible scenarios for WHY a company exists.  They are the Good, the True, the Beautiful, and the Heroic.  Try to imagine fitting your company into one of these descriptive boxes.  For some, it may sound a little 'soft' or 'fuzzy', not really relevant to what you do as a company, or as an individual in the company.  Be assured that the modern workforce craves a piece of this pie.  The millennials want to know the WHY.  They need to plug into the WHY.  And if they can't see it, and if you as the CEO aren’t living it and communicating it to them, then they will leave your company and work for someone else.

Authentic communications has become an overused and sometimes misunderstood concept, but it starts with your own behavior and communication style.  In the age of social media where we are seeking ‘likes’ and ‘followers’, the best way to stand out is to be authentic.  Your company will attract more people who are aligned with your WHY.  Your company will also attract and keep more loyal customers who are also aligned with your purpose. 

Be authentic, be the real deal, and you will gain favor with your coworkers, be more successful as a person and as a company, and you will have more fun doing your work and living life.