Does being authentic mean you can do anything?

At the end of the year WordPress, who host this blog, send me some statistics about the site, including how many visitors I’ve had, how many blogs I wrote, what the most popular pages and posts were, and what searches people use to find their way to the site.

The most common searches were stephen drainstephen drain autnegative leadershipnegative leadership traits, and rubik’s cube. I can understand the first two and last one gets searchers to me as I once wrote a blog mentioning the Rubik Cube (I wonder if I’m what they’re looking for? – all questions but no Rubik solution!). I’ve noticed during the year the regular,

Something so right - New Chum Beach, Coromandel

daily searches that people do for “negative leadership”. I don’t know who they are so I can’t ask.

But it is worth exploring in the context of authenticity. If I’m a negative prick, just because I am, then I’m authentic right? So carry on? If I lead by manipulation as that’s my natural way of doing things, authentic to me if you like, then that’s okay too isn’t it? What if I’m overly reflective and don’t participate in leadership meetings when I don’t feel like it? That’s my authentic self so why should I change?

All wrong I say. Sam Harris in his persuasive TED talk challenges a view that science can have no determination on morals. The same should be strongly asserted for leadership. As we have evolved as a species and developed a greater understanding of the human condition, leadership and happiness we are entitled to reach a scientific consensus on what is appropriate or not in leadership.

I know of leaders who use authenticity as an excuse for primitive behaviours like bullying, manipulation and silence. If nothing else my blog searchers tell me that there’s lots out there that some folk reckon is wrong. Negative.

Discovering and developing our authenticity can not be to the exclusion of growing and evolving ourselves. So if you’re a negative prick, don’t use authenticity as your excuse! Some things are just wrong. And some things are right.



4 thoughts on “Does being authentic mean you can do anything?

  1. I am very fortunate in that I have had clear personal examples of each kind of leader:

    One who used a ‘veneer of leadership’ as a cover/excuse for his manipulative and bullying behaviours, all done very cleverly.
    However no matter how smart you are, this kind of behaviour is just building a house of cards – eventually it will come crashing down around you, which is exactly what happened in this case as within 2 years all staff left the company.

    The other was the CEO of a global company I work for in Qatar. He had been the CEO in other countries for this company previously. People came from all around the world to come and work as part of his company. He was truly authentic in all that he did, as well as humble, and genuinely interested in the people around him. He acknowledged the importance of the contributions of ALL people working in the company. He strove to do what he could to help others reach their full potential. He would be the first person to give up his chair if there was one short, or wipe up a spill someone had left on the office floor.

    Sadly, he died unexpectedly late last year. The outpouring of grief within our company and also from around the globe was truly remarkable. He is very sadly missed.

    What is my outake from this?
    Well there are many, but to try and sum it up, people who use a ‘veneer of leadership’ can have some influence, for a finite period of time, and the degree of influence is for the large part related to the amount of power they currently wield over the people they are influencing. (ie if they are your boss, people will follow, because in the short term they have little option, but they will look to move on, you get a ‘veneer of followship’ 😛 or what I like to call ‘just smile and nod’)

    A truly authentic leader will leave a mark on everyone they touch, and will not only influence what they do day to day, but how they think and approach life in general. Their influence will continue for an infinite period of time. This is because it is not related to the power they can wield over others, but rather their inherent strength of character that draws others toward them. People are attracted by their character and want to emulate them in their own lives. It creates a ripple effect of which the extent of influence is immesurable.

    I don’t think it is hard for you to guess which of the leaders above made me feel inspired to comment on the blog.



    1. Hi Dione, thank you for sharing your authentic experiences in such a meaningful way. Although the negative experience is certainly be tough, but it’s a great learning opportunity that can help others.


  2. Stephen, couldn’t agree more about ‘authenticity’ being used as a excuse for bad behaviour. I’ve seen plenty of that about and it’s not on. Such bullying, manipulation and put-down are done also in the name of ‘honesty’, ‘freedom’ and ‘robust conversation’. I agree that a call to authenticity is also a call to self-development and a consciousness of other.


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