What’s the Balance Between Authenticity and Professionalism?

The dynamic is almost cliche.  A super hero just wants to be normal and struggles with the loneliness of being one-of-a-kind, while the public loves and fears the super hero at the same time.  All the fans want to be near; but they don’t want to be close.  

Any person with an ounce of public image at stake deals with this dynamic –maybe not to the level of a super hero, but on some level.  People want their leaders to be authentic and transparent, but not so much that would reveal they’re just a person.  As a pastor I was once told that I seem less-than-professional with my more down-to-earth and conversational style.  In my vocation I need to be relate-able, but people don’t seem to like it when they can relate too much.

How does one deal with these conflicting ideals?  

I suppose one way would be to compartmentalize.  You can keep up appearances on one end and be the real you on the other.  But in truth, hiding the real you and resorting to secrecy will never succeed.  Ever heard of ‘fake it till you make it’?  Yeah, I don’t think that works.  And even if it does on the outside, something within will likely die on the inside.

Another way would be to just expose yourself (not literally…please, not literally).  Just let it all hang out; and hey, if people have a problem with the real you then that’s their problem…right?  But let’s be honest, you’re always going to care a little bit how people think of you.  And this approach works against you if you’re working with people.

Sometimes well, and sometimes not so well, I try to live within a range.  Not a point on the continuum, but within an acceptable range.  Some occasions require that I reveal a little vulnerability, taking the risk that people will handle it with grace.  This can be scary sometimes, but also pretty moving.  Other times it’s better to keep air of distance to exercise authority, get things done, or confront some challenges.  Personally, I veer towards the vulnerable side of the range…and I admit sometimes too far.  I’ve been stung and have lost trust…which really hurts.  But I still think it’s worth the risk.  And while I’ll seek to live within that healthy range and, yes, make some mistakes along the way, at least I’ll be me.

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