“When we adopt a playful attitude, we’re more open to possibilities. It’s OK to be inconsistent from one day to the next. That’s not being a fake; it’s how we experiment to figure out what’s right for the new challenges + circumstances we face.”

~ Herminia Ibarra in the Harvard Business Review

As COVID-19 has progressed, there’s been a backdrop of criticism of the Government + mistrust around their handling of the pandemic.

Against this, a need for greater authenticity has been forced on to the business world, as a background of family members and pets has become a familiar feature of online work meetings, + the traditional British “stiff upper lip” has been replaced with increasingly honest accounts of the difficulty of daily life in lockdown.

This has been really refreshing, and equally as necessary. At times of stress, authenticity is so important. It’s a real secret weapon: pivotal in overcoming trust issues quickly + closing the gap between words and actions.

That’s why it’s worth noting that your organisation’s culture – “the way we do things around here” should show up consistently both internally, to your employees, and externally, to your customers. There’s no room for inconsistencies in our age of digital channels + social networks.

Authentic Leadership

Alongside clearly defined and aligned values and a relevant purpose, an authentic culture is driven by authentic leadership. We’ve seen some shining examples of authentic leadership during the pandemic, with Prime Ministers Jacinta Arden + Sanna Marin standing out for their communication skills. We’ve seen that authentic leaders are humble. They make mistakes + admit it. They ask for help. They collaborate rather than going it alone.

The power of + need for authenticity is great news for the SME community, as consumer distrust relates to big business rather than local businesses. However, in the most recent survey only 43% of SME employees said they trusted their business leaders + management – a 16% decline since 2018. (Breathe, ibid.)

This distrust has a business impact, as those who trust their employer are also far more likely to advocate on their behalf, to show loyalty, to be engaged + to be committed. (Edelman Trust Barometer 2020)

Against the backdrop of the global pandemic, employees’ need for an authentic organisational culture, that plays out equally across every aspect of how a business “shows up”, presents a great opportunity.

So, come on leaders – it’s time to take your masks off and let your authentic selves – and authentic company culture – shine.