Twenty-first century communication has changed how we connect to the world in three essential ways: connectivity, authenticity, and style. I discussed connectivity in the last post; this post is about authenticity.
Radical Authenticity Means Making What’s Staged Look Impromptu
We want authentic people as leaders today, and what the world doesn’t realize is how hard it is to appear that way. It takes understanding of how communications works, and it takes practice. There’s nothing spontaneous about authenticity in this televised age.
So how do you show up with pre-determined authenticity? And what about that irony of practicing authenticity? Doesn’t that mean that any such ‘authenticity’ will be fake?
Thinking about it in this way mistakes what it is and how it is projected. Authenticity is genuineness. The shortcut we use to determine it in the people around us is consistency in message and body language – does this person appear to mean what she says?
And so the irony is that the more you practice being consistent, the more likely you are to show up that way – and look authentic. When people don’t rehearse, they send out unconscious messages with their bodies that this is the first time I’m doing this. And the body language cues of first-timers overlap with the cues of people who don’t fully mean what they say. Both groups tend to engage in self-protective behavior, because they feel exposed. Both groups telegraph nervousness through agitated body language. And both groups often restrict their own motion and movement to make themselves feel safer.
The result signals to the people around us (unconsciously) that the leader is not relaxed, fluid, and at ease.
So the way to look authentic – radically authentic – is to practice. Your body must get the muscle memory of standing, walking, and talking in the ways that it will during the real event or occasion. If it does, then it can show up with some authority and presence, and your tribe will interpret that as authenticity, if the (more comfortable) body language does in fact match the message. And that is the kind of important question that gets answered by rehearsal.
If you rehearse, you and your body can focus on the moment when you’re actually delivering your message. And that greatly increases the chances that you’ll show up as authentic.