Acting like a chameleon, changing the way you behave to fit in with the people around you, enhances your acceptance and popularity in the moment, but damages your stature in the long run. People accept you more quickly as “one of them” when you fit in with the crowd or mirror their behaviors but you do not earn the respect for your authenticity that truly sets you apart.
If you are a leader who relies less on your status and more on the authority of your stature, then fitting in with your team might not always be the best way for you to connect with them. Leadership entails a gap between team and leader because as a leader more is expected of you than if you are one of the guys. You are expected to set an example; to act differently from everyone else. As their behaviors catch up to yours, you again set new standards of behavior for them to emulate. When your team decides to go out for drinks after a long day of meetings or an off-site, you might do better quitting earlier than they do. If one of them drinks too much, it might be fun for them. If you as the leader do, you may gain popularity in the moment but can permanently damage your stature in their eyes thereafter.
In every interaction with another person you can choose to lead, and when you do, the same applies. To lead another individual in an interaction with them, to influence their thought and actions, it is often helpful to set yourself apart rather than to try desperately to fit in and mirror them. I am not talking of apartness for the sake of apartness nor of being eccentric. I am talking of being proud of who you are, being proud of the values you were brought up with and have developed, and being willing to live those values in every situation irrespective of whom you are interacting with at any given moment.
Authenticity – being true to your values – can create an invisible barrier between you and others. In some cases this barrier may preclude certain people from wanting to get close to you, or even from wanting to do business with you. And that’s OK. Self-selection of friends, customers and clients is not a bad thing. Authentic people know that you can’t win them all, and have no ambition to do so.
The same applies in business: When your competitive advantage is an authentic outcome of your values, of whom you are and who your company is at a soul level, it becomes compelling to anyone who identifies with what you stand for. Rather build a passionate following among the people who identify with you than a luke-warm base of customers who could easily be seduced to follow your competitors instead. In Lead By Greatness you learn how to build your competitive advantage from your own values and corporate soul in ways that others cannot copy. Lapin International is dedicated to helping leaders merge their values (authenticity) with their strategy (competitive advantage) to set their companies apart in their markets and industries.
How do you overcome the invisible barriers to connection that being authentic can cause? This will be the subject of my next blog!