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The Problem with Being an Authentic Leader

The delicate balance of authenticity and confidentiality in leadership.

As Christians, we desire to be as genuine as possible—both to ourselves and to others. In leadership, however, there is a need to be authentic in message and in mission, but prudent in revealing our method. For instance, Pastor Andy Stanley states, “Uncertainty is a permanent part of the leadership landscape. It never goes away.” Because there will always be uncertainty with our circumstances, it can be risky to reveal too much too soon about our goals or objectives. For instance, if we share about our goals and they don’t come to fruition, our credibility weakens.

As women in ministry, it’s important that we distinguish between our personal feelings and our ministerial goals. Understanding the difference between emotional and strategic authenticity helps us do this. I know I feel that when I am in a relationship with someone, I have an obligation to be as genuine and transparent with them as possible. I expect the same in return. But there are times when strategic authenticity must take center stage. Sharing confidential information can be detrimental to the community. Talking too soon about a new church initiative can lessen the impact of the grand announcement. Voicing all my insecurities to those I minister to, for instance, can affect how they trust me as their leader, thus contradicting my long-term strategy of leading them well.

The more I study Scripture, the more I realize that Christ did not handle his ministry with complete transparency. In fact, he’s a great example of strategic authenticity. For instance, Jesus often taught using parables. He told stories to the crowds and later dissected the teaching and application with his closest companions (Mark 4:11; Matthew 13:11–17). Also, at certain times, Jesus commanded secrecy regarding both his identity and mission in order to accomplish his ultimate redemptive goal on the cross (Mark 8:27–30). Yet, while Jesus was methodical in his delivery regarding how and to whom he revealed who he was, he remained emotionally open to those he encountered.

Times for Emotional Authenticity

In “The Authenticity Paradox” from the Harvard Business Review, the author stresses not disclosing any feelings of insecurity to those we lead because it can cause trust issues. I believe this is a place where the church and the secular world should be different. As Christians, we know that everyone has struggles, and being open about them to a degree can actually engender trust from our teammates.

March30, 2017 at 8:00 AM

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