Blue Beyond Consulting

Authenticity: Adam Grant And Brené Brown On How Best To Be Ourselves

Organizational psychologist and thought leader, Adam Grant, recently wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times entitled Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice. His contention is that being your true, authentic self can be harmful to your professional career. Instead, we should strive for sincerity — to be the people we claim to be.

In a thoughtful response directed to Grant, Brené Brown, research professor and thought leader on vulnerability and authenticity, posted an article on LinkedIn called My response to Adam Grant’s New York Times Op/ED: Unless You’re Oprah, ‘Be Yourself’ Is Terrible Advice. Brown asserts that our culture needs more authentic leaders and that Grant’s piece takes a reductionist approach to authenticity. We’ve taken snippets of both pieces and placed them side-by-side in the infographic below.

Cheryl Fields Tyler, our CEO, also wrote a piece in response called Is Authenticity for Real? that offers an “in the trenches” view about authenticity from a CEO and a team who works on this stuff everyday. Building on Brown’s view, we think authenticity is when a group of people actively and deliberately cultivate a psychologically safe environment where people build trust and establish norms that enable people to be imperfect, vulnerable, learning and achieving—as individuals and as a team.

In Is Authenticity for Real? Cheryl Fields Tyler expands on authenticity in three ways:

  1. Authenticity is Inherently and Essentially a Team Sport Authenticity—when you’re really trying to build it as a norm in an organization— invites us not to think about ourselves, but to consider how our common humanity and distinct perspectives make us better together.
  2. Authenticity Starts With a Commitment to Basic Trust and Psychological Safety Authenticity assumes that people are imperfect and that most of us will show up like a jerk once in awhile – but a commitment to authenticity doesn’t give the jerk-moments the power to set group norms. In fact, when imperfections and stresses show up, there is the potential for these to truly be teachable moments where we can help one another to learn these skills and strengthen psychological safety, not erode it.
  3. Authenticity Builds Common Ground For Teams to Be Distinct, Human, Imperfect and Excellent, Together Authenticity is not only about showing up sincere, vulnerable, and imperfect. Authenticity is equally about showing up as learning, accomplishing, and achieving. Authenticity is the distinct quality of an environment where people get to be both imperfect and accomplished, sincere and learning, vulnerable and achieving. Read Cheryl’s piece in full here.