Workplace diversity is a top goal for companies of all sizes today. Research shows that enterprises which include people of both genders and of multiple generations, cultures and physical abilities increase their productivity, improve the effectiveness of their employee teams and better their bottom line. A more diverse workforce clearly equals rewards.
At the level of the individual, however, less is more. Rather than trying to be “all things” to their employers, people perform better and are more engaged when they focus on being their singular, authentic selves.
When companies also encourage and reward this kind of authenticity and genuineness among their leaders, these leaders, in turn, are more likely to create real value for the organization.
So, how does authenticity support a business? When people feel free to be who and what they are — both privately and publicly — they have more energy to create and innovate. Authentic workers are more likely to bring their whole selves to the job, engage with the company’s goals and participate fully in the mission of the enterprise.
These same employees also recognize and are attracted to authentic leaders, and follow them with greater dedication — leading to stronger teams and enhanced business performance.
Authenticity is especially important in the areas of gender and sexual orientation. The corporate world has long trained women to behave and even dress like men. Executives often coach women to negotiate “like a man,” by using male body language, lowering their natural speaking voices and avoiding feminine or frilly clothing — so that they will be taken “seriously.” Yet covering up natural female behaviors or appearances to seem more masculine does not help women lead effectively.
“The women I see succeeding bring their whole self to it,” Barbara Annis told NBC News. Annis is founding partner of Gender Intelligence Group and the chair emeritus of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. “They’re empowered, and they’re driven by their values,” Annis continued. “The key is really to be authentic.”