As the 2012 election gets closer, many political commentators have identified “authenticity” as a critical attribute for potential candidates. When it comes to leadership and conflict, what is “authenticity,” and why is it so important?

The dictionary describes “authenticity” as “genuine” or “real.” In other words, it means being true to who you really are, knowing your values, and living them out consistently. In a world filled with new media and widespread access to data, people are constantly being bombarded with all kinds of messages. It’s no wonder everyone craves knowing what is really true and trustworthy about a person.

This is particularly the case when dealing with colleagues.  Authenticity is the cornerstone of establishing trust in any relationship, and trust affects everything from communication to productivity. Without it, relationships break down, and collaboration becomes impossible.

When conflict is involved, it’s important that you engage with the other person in a way that is consistent with your personality and character. Ideally, you will have had a pattern of integrity over the years where being direct, open, and straightforward is not only accepted, but welcomed. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge your weaknesses; a certain amount of transparency and vulnerability often deepens a relationship rather than having the opposite effect. Also, understanding yourself, knowing what makes you tick, and communicating to the other person what you really think rather than what you think they want to hear will go a long way in solving the problem at hand and establishing a trusting relationship for the future.

Tips for Ensuring Authenticity During a Conflict

  • Know yourself (values, passion, purpose) and behave consistently.
  • Listen to others, be attentive to their side of the issue, and pursue connection on multiple levels.
  • Show appreciation and respect even though you might disagree.
  • Be responsive to feedback, and always leave the door open for further dialogue.