Capital Markets Corporate

June 7, 2019

Leading with authenticity – A 21st century challenge


Kaj Sahota, Senior Account Manager at Instinctif Partners

In a world where the words and actions of our leaders are constantly under public scrutiny, it is more important than ever that they are able to lead with authenticity.

However, in an age of high-speed reporting and social media where their words can be disseminated at the touch of a button, leaders are coming under increasing pressure not just to be authentic, but to be able to communicate authentically.

But what exactly is the difference and does it really matter?

Life in the public eye

In today’s complex political and economic climate, people are constantly seeking the truth.

Whether it be the CEO of a business commenting on their latest set of results or a political leader articulating their manifesto promises, being able to effectively communicate can make all the difference when it comes to shaping your identity, building trust and gaining influence amongst key audiences.

Take the example of Neil Woodford following the suspension of his LF Woodford Equity Income Fund earlier this week. In an attempt to defend his actions to angry investors he issued a sombre YouTube apology in which he explained that he was simply trying to protect their interests. While the industry remain divided on his motivations behind the decision, the video was a clear attempt at transparency from Woodford and may have gone some small way towards regaining some of his reputation in the long term.

On the other hand, following the discovery of an accounting error earlier in the year, Metro Bank initially insisted that it had been the one to identify the mistake and take steps to rectify it through an internal review. Needless to say, when its chief executive later admitted the error had actually been uncovered by the Bank of England, shares plummeted.

How to communicate authentically

However, even with the best intentions it can be easy to get it wrong when trying to engage with key audiences. Helpfully, there are a number of steps that can be taken to ensure you are communicating both authentically and effectively.

Firstly, be clear about what you stand for. What are your key messages and views on relevant issues? You must have a clear grasp of your identity in the first instance if you are to be able to portray it accurately to others.

Secondly, once you have identified your key messages be sure to stick to them. Be sharp in your delivery, consistent and confident – if you have faith in yourself it will reflect positively.

Finally, don’t be tempted to stray into spouting jargon, trying to ‘spin’ a bad situation or telling outright lies. People will see through it and you will lose credibility.

Separating the wheat from the chaff

In testing times and under the pressure of today’s omnipresent media, it can be hard enough to lead with authenticity.

Leaders of all shapes and sizes are susceptible to being placed under the microscope and open to scrutiny whether it be from journalists, the public, investors, regulatory bodies, or other stakeholders.

However, the real challenge lies in being able to communicate your integrity, honesty and strength of character authentically and effectively.

If you can get this right, that’s where the real value lies.