« ... we tend to latch on to authenticity as an excuse for sticking with what’s comfortable. » Indeed, this behavior is seen in all walks of life, and it’s a job to know when we are sticking to our values and beliefs for good reason and when we are using them to ward off the need to change. 'True-to-selfers' tend to use their values and beliefs as a compass whereas 'Chameleons' are guided more by what the world expects of them. As in so many things, it is a questions of balance, as the picture of the two extremists is meant to remind us.

Other points that I like in the article, before I leave you to read it for yourself:

  • « By viewing ourselves as work in progress and evolving our professional identities through trial and error, we can develop a personal style that feels right to us and suits our organizations’ changing needs » ... this is essentially how to resolve the paradox. Being 'True-to-self' starts to feel less 'obviously right' when we consider that the self is constantly changing.
  • « Leadership growth usually involves a shift from having good ideas to pitching them to diverse stakeholders. Inexperienced leaders, especially true-to-selfers, often find the process of getting buy-in distasteful because it feels artificial and political; they believe that their work should stand on its own merits. » ... I see this a lot in my work with technical experts employed in a commercial context. For example, problems often arise in startup companies created by technologists – nobody is comfortable pushing sales, but that’s what the founders have to do!
  • « Until we see career advancement as a way of extending our reach and increasing our impact in the organization – a collective win, not just a selfish pursuit – we have trouble feeling authentic when touting our strengths to influential people. » ... Ibarra shows great empathy for people who struggle with the authenticity paradox, and I found her article enjoyable to read because of this. As this quotation shows, she does not encourage people to become inauthentic – to sell at any moral cost, for example. Rather, she advocates a small change in mindset that allows us to do what’s needed AND (rather than OR) be authentic.

I hope that these few words encourage you to read the full article.