5 Reasons You Shouldn't Be Yourself at Work There is such a thing as being too honest, and the line can be perilously thin.

By Jenna Goudreau

entrepreneur daily

This story originally appeared on Business Insider

"Authenticity" is the latest buzzword in business, often considered the golden ticket to effective leadership.

It's hard to deny its appeal. Who wouldn't want to bring their whole, true self to work, lead by radical transparency, say what they mean, and mean what they say?

Don't be fooled by the marketing, warns Herminia Ibarra, a professor at business school INSEAD in Paris and author of new book "Act Like A Leader, Think Like A Leader." There is such a thing as being too honest, and the line can be perilously thin.

In her recent cover story for the Harvard Business Review, Ibarra argues that a simplistic understanding of authentic leadership can backfire fast. Here are some of the risks of being too "authentic" at work:

1. Your growth could stagnate.

So you want to be true to yourself. Which self? What does that really mean? "The notion of adhering to one 'true self' flies in the face of much research on how people evolve with experience, discovering facets of themselves they would never have unearthed through introspection alone," Ibarra writes. If you stay in your comfort zone, you might get stuck there.

2. You may lose your credibility.

At times, vulnerability can be empowering, but some things are better shared in private among family and friends. When a manager admits fear or inadequacy on the job, subordinates question their ability to lead. Ibarra cites the example of a newly promoted general manager at a healthcare company who believed in transparent, collaborative leadership. But when she said to new employees, "I want to do this job, but it's scary, and I need your help," she immediately undermined her authority.

3. You might make bad decisions.

Ibarra explains that, by adhering to a too-rigid definition of authentic leadership, some managers may make values-based choices rather than decisions rooted in data. "When we move into a bigger role, values that were shaped by past experiences can lead us astray," she writes. "For instance, 'tight control over operating details' might produce authentic but wrong-headed behavior in the face of new challenges."

4. You may not get the buy-in you need.

Many professionals confuse being authentic with doing what feels most comfortable, but when your usual behavior clashes with what's expected or necessary to succeed, you set yourself up for failure. Much like you'd have to adapt to cultural norms when working in another country, as you climb the ladder and influence more people, you may need to change your style in order to sell your ideas and motivate your team — even if it feels fake at first.

5. You might start rationalizing ineffectiveness.

For some workers, "authenticity" may just be a cover for poor results. "That's just my style" is an easy defense to negative feedback, and that kind of mindset could hold you back from real growth.

To avoid these landmines, Ibarra recommends evolving toward an "adaptively authentic" way of leading. "Think of leadership development as trying on possible selves rather than working on yourself — which, let's face it, sounds like drudgery," she says. "When we adopt a playful attitude, we're more open to possibilities. It's OK to be inconsistent from one day to the next. That's not being a fake; it's how we experiment to figure out what's right for the new challenges and circumstances we face."

Jenna Goudreau is a senior editor at Business Insider and oversees the Strategy, Careers, and Your Money sections.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Related Topics

Science & Technology

The 'Mother of All Breaches' Just Happened — Here's the Security Implications for Businesses

If your business exists online, chances are some percent of your customers' data got leaked in what cybersecurity specialists boldly labeled as the "mother of all breaches" (MOAB).

Side Hustle

Getting Laid Off Allowed Him to Focus on His Sentimental Side Hustle. Now He's on Track to Earn Over $700,000 in 2024.

Alaa El Ghatit wasn't fulfilled at his day job. So he started LifeOnRecord to help people record memories and well wishes.

Business News

The Owner of a Popular Boston Restaurant Is Under Fire After Direct Messaging, Berating a Customer Who Disputed $250 Cancelation Fee

New York-based traveler Trevor Chauvin-DeCaro was set to dine at Table in Boston's North End last month.

Business News

Klarna Says Its AI Assistant Does the Work of 700 People. The Company Laid Off the Same Number of Employees 2 Years Ago.

The AI bot has taken on 75% of Klarna's customer service chats, or about 2.3 million conversations, within a month of launch.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.