Becoming More Authentic: A Practical Guide

You are born authentic. Life happens. You slowly start to hide bits of yourself from yourself and others. Not deliberately. It’s a gradual mutation, hard to see– let alone feel. You work to convince your heart this new you is practical, even necessary. More life happens.
Reverse the pattern.

Benefits of Aging

From the hundreds of folks weighing in on yesterday’s post in various circles (including great comments yesterday, THANK YOU!), the most frequent theme was, “I have become more authentic with age.”

Perhaps it’s because early attempts are clutsy. We need more life to understand our values. Or, we take an aggressive stance without thinking it through. Or perhaps as LaRay Quy commented in yesterday’s post:

Sooner or later, life catches up with those who are not authentic, but I feel sort of sorry for them because most of them have no idea WHO or WHAT they really stand for the illusion has become the reality. I think it’s sometimes called “mid-life crisis?”

Don’t just wait it out and hope for your years to make you wise. You want every bit of authenticity as early in your game as possible.

Growing Toward Authentic

There’s no easy way to BECOME more authentic. I didn’t see authenticity 101 in my son’s freshman choices. But it’s helpful to consider some components.


Get deliberate in articulating your values. Make a short list. Write them down. Order them. Notice the natural tension among them. When your deeply held values battle which wins? For one week, at the end of each day take out the list. Grade yourself honestly on each one. Notice the patterns.


Integrity sits at the intersection of your heart, head, mouth and feet. Pay deliberate attention to when and where you do what you say. Where do your best intentions break down? When are you tempted to cover up your choices?


Most of us show up more authentic in some places than others. Some people and scenes stoke our authenticity. Others bring out the faker in us. Identify one situation where you need more courage. Name the fear. Give it an audacious and ugly name. Then find one way to punch it in the face today.


Start today with a stroke count. Count how many times your heart called you to share more, but you bit your tongue. Notice why. Look for patterns. Ask you team for help. What are they longing to learn more about, take the risk and let them in.

Real leadershipThis post is part of the REAL leadership model series. Please join the conversation by subscribing, commenting and sharing.

Posted in Authenticity & Transparency and tagged , , , , , .

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager's Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells - building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.


  1. For me it was realizing that most people didn’t see me the way I wanted them to see me anyway…

    Then I realized that faking it didn’t get me very far and I sure didn’t learn much.

    Being the genius that I am, I figured that if something didn’t work for 32 years I should probably change it. And I did.

  2. Like others mentioned yesterday, authenticity came with age for me. For many years, the life I was living was not aligned with my values. I was following a career I thought would make me feel successful (but I now know it only made others see me as successful). I even participated in activities that were supposed to be fun (for me) – although I realized later I was only faking my enjoyment with others. Note: I no longer play golf 🙂

    I sometimes regret not finding authenticity earlier in life, but then I ask myself, would the journey that got me to where I am today been as meaningful?

    • Bill, I’m with you…. we’ve got to appreciate the journey. I keep trying to remind myself of that now as well. All the hard stuff is helping me to become.

  3. This is a wonderful list. I find it very encouraging to see that your topics line up very nicely with my spiritual self, with my faith. Thanks!

  4. I had the great opportunity of starting with a clean slate when I moved from my native Mexico City to the US. No need to be anyone other than who I really am. It has allowed me to grow and thrive in ways I couldn’t have imagined, had I stayed within my usual circle of family and friends.

    • Interesting, Lily – because I wonder how you will “be” when you return to Mexico City. Will the authenticity practice here change your foundation so you go back a more authentic person OR will you return to Mexico City and have the old patterns return like spider webs in the attic? Both ways of going back are “okay” because you’ve learned particular survival patterns. Interesting. Gets me thinking!

  5. I love the 2 parts you called out….”Name the fear. Give it an audacious and ugly name.” and ” Count how many times your heart called you to share more, but you bit your tongue. Notice why. Look for patterns.” I will definitely work on those 2 things!! As for encouraging authenticity in others…listen/pay attention when they share personal things and then ask them questions/bring it up later to show them that you care about what they have said…it encourages them to share more! Just like your previous blog…”They share back, and I know this creates deeper bonds and trust.”

  6. Two people in one body- one taking you right while the other taking you left. One ascending, the other descending, one greedy and the other fearful, one awake to realities and the other alluding fantasy shall just torn the person apart. Knowing your reality and building on improving it is the wat to progress That is why your statement, Karin “You slowly start to hide bits of yourself from yourself and others” moved me.

  7. Karin – Authenticity is such a great topic for growing leaders. It is leadership glue. There are other components to leadership, like ways of communicating, and ways of giving, and ways of encouraging, but authenticity is one of the binding parts of leadership – as you’ve identified in your REAL program. In terms of how it is done or advice I would give another person … that is difficult. My initial thought is that someone must be internally motivated to be authentic. The bird does not fly without flapping its own wings. I can’t do it for the bird. But then how do I motivate a person to want this attribute? I think one way is to model “I am OK and I am Broken.” A quasi-buddhist notion that my imperfection is OK, and as a leader I am equipped with everything I will ever need. Oh, it may take development and practice and the learning of new skills. But I am not ill-equipped. I think once the leader can accept that imperfection is OK, then I hope others can learn that authenticity is a healthy by-product of accepting oneself.

    • David, YES! Model, I’m okay and I am broken. Can be tough if the culture you’re in doesn’t roll that way…. but swimming up stream in that way, helps pave the way for teams to grow.

  8. For me I woke up – over a several year period – to the fact that I was not who I presented to the world. There were thoughts I had that I wasn’t speaking; ideas I generated that I did not discuss or act upon, and experiences that I wanted to have, but I was slowly giving in to the cliches of my age group: “You’re too old to change how and who you are,” or, “THAT Ship sailed a long time ago,” perhaps you have your own ‘story’ you tell your self. Then, on a whim, I began reading ‘motivational sayings, and, strangely (to me, at the time, the power of words seemed strange – not so strange looking back), I began to see things differently. Here’s one that stopped me cold from Maria Robinson: “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Uh oh. I was out of excuses. I was done with my ‘old story’ I was telling myself; and I launched what some friends of mine call: “Jeff 2.0”. It’s been a great, imperfect, fresh and exciting learning journey for several years now – both with an inward component to it, and an outward component – and those two are now more congruent than ever before. And I have a long ways to go – but the journey is now the thing, not ‘arriving’ somewhere! What freedom!! Authentic freedom to be!

  9. I’ve noticed articles and tweets of recent times talking up ‘fake it till you make it’ especially directed at new leaders or small business owners. Faking it then seems to become second nature. I’m seeing with my clients it takes great effort to be more honest with themselves and others and as you say Karin “grow toward” living and leading with authenticity.

  10. I love this blog, Just discovered it on linked in.
    I’m 57, left 30 year law practice 18 months ago to lead a non profit.
    I try very hard to be the same man at home, at work or with my friends.
    The biggest challenge is seeking to discern how much of myself I can truly share with others.
    to me the key is to be truthful, vulnerable, self effacing and be honest about my challenges as well as what I am truly passionate about.
    thanks for this thoughtful post.(series of posts)

  11. Karin

    Good information yet again. I am going to share with the wildland fire community! Thanks so much for your leadership and mentoring!

  12. Another great quote that nudged me further on my journey into authenticity – “Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive — the risk to be alive and express what we really are.” — Don Miguel Ruiz

    Any one else inspired by this quote?

    So great to read all the inspiring stories on this topic. Karin, thank you for your wisdom, and for your fostering and facilitating this growing community. Clearly you are striking a chord, and many of us are fueling ourselves to carry on in our authentic jouas a result of your work.

  13. What a great post, and one of my favorite subjects. So hard to grab that authenticity at a young age as we are so desperately looking everywhere but within ourselves for that authentic me. Love all your components you list, all offer great value and I believe are required. Courage is surely a big one in today’s world of SM and it’s ability to throw transparency and mud at the same time.

    There are many lessons in many different faiths about authenticity that I sometimes wonder if people have forgotten. It seems sometimes that authenticity gets left out of messages on faith, politics and many other subjects being spoken about these days.

    But authenticity is a tough one to hold, and that is why I think you are so right when you point out that writing your values is a worth while thing to do. Totally agree.

    I try everyday to continue to be as authentic as possible, and I know that sometimes I slip, I look in the mirror and check my appearance, is this me! Then I catch myself and off I go. Or I don’t say something then think why ?

    As you point out age is a catalyst here, it offers a bigger perspective on life and allows one’s self awareness to grow. Thanks for the post, and offering some great points on keeping the authentic me real.

  14. There is a period in almost everyone’s life when you are primarily driven by the need for the esteem of others as a a way of building your self esteem. When you enter the school playground is typically the first time you seek this, because it is all about looking good. Some people never satisfy this need for the rest of their lives. Being authentic to these people is being seen as great in the eyes of others, often demonstrating this through what they have accumulated or the status that they have reached in society. Others get to a point when they accept themselves and their need for esteem is satiated – they are then seeking what next. As others in this blog have shared – this is often a moment in time and can be a ‘crisis’. From that point, you can get the idea of being authentic to yourself and not before. Typically people looking for the esteem of others are not self reflective or inward looking – what would be the point of that?! So the idea that you can implore people to find their purpose and be authentic when they are still driven to satisfy their need for esteem from others is a nonsense. I think the advice in this blog for these people just washes over them. It does not resonate. I guess that in this world many of the most powerful people – in business or politics – have no interest in authenticity in its pure form. So a question may be – assuming being authentic is good for the individual, good for humanity – how can you engage the people, that have such influence on the current direction and shape of things to come, in this reflective process.

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