Get All Access for $5/mo

Are You Coming Across as Authentic? If not, it could really be hurting your business. Here's how to figure out if other people find you authentic, and what to do about it if they don't.

By Divya Parekh Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

Showing up authentically in every interaction is crucial for your company's success. Simply put, authenticity means being your real self in personality and character, despite external pressures. If you do not know yourself very well, or understand what drives your life, you may come across to others as lacking authenticity.

A lack of authenticity is a common characteristic. People tend to wear invisible "masks" for different situations: One mask for family life, another one for the workplace, and other masks when they are with other groups. They feel vulnerable at the thought of having to reveal their real selves in certain situations. But, as an entrepreneur, a lack of authenticity can spell doom for your company. Authenticity, or the lack thereof, will come through in your company's performance, marketing, products, services, and results.

Think of authenticity as your authentic identity. How you show up – your communications and actions – show people how genuine you are and demonstrate whether they can trust you. This principle goes for your customers and your employees. When you lack authenticity, they do not align with you.

Related: Failure and Authenticity: Why Millennials Succeed At Marketing

How to develop authenticity

Authenticity begins with mindfulness, which is a conscious effort of self-awareness. You need to know yourself and what drives your life. Mindfulness helps you become aware of your strengths and limitations, feelings and emotional hindrances, beliefs, values, and passions. You may not realize it, but they are the foundation on which you build your business (intentionally or unintentionally).

Do not worry about having to change. Through mindfulness, you can observe the entire spectrum of the real you. The activity of mindfulness does not attempt to change anything. Self-awareness helps you regard yourself without judgment. You might later determine that you want to change some aspect of yourself, but you need to observe yourself initially.

In your mindfulness exercise to develop authenticity, start by identifying your values. These are the principles that govern what is essential to you in life and work. Your values will help you become authentic, and if you veer off course, your values will bring you back to your authentic self.

Next, assess your current position in all your relationships, both in the workplace and home and personal life. Determine where you are, based on your values, where you want to be, and then determine the gaps. Understand that if you desire to move your business to the next level, you personally also must step up and demonstrate authenticity at that level. Otherwise, you will be frustrated at the results.

The next step is to align your actions with your values. This alignment will drive harmony in your thoughts, intentions, and actions. Your values will help you navigate decision-making and give you clear direction and consistency in your work.

Decisions and strategies based on your values will enable you to develop effective, non-frustrating paths toward your goals.

Related: Failure and Authenticity: Why Millennials Succeed At Marketing

How mindfulness governs your business focus

Whether you are a serial entrepreneur or a first-time entrepreneur, you will frequently need to decide where to focus on your employees' efforts. It would help if you also focused your and your employees' attention away from distractions, especially those that cause emotional turbulence and disruption. Again, mindfulness comes into play, as follows:

  • Awareness of what is important to you and your company can provide critical insights into prioritizing your focus.
  • To successfully run your company, you need to develop a business mission statement and a personal mission statement. These missions should focus on goals that ensure you act authentically regarding your values.
  • You also need to make choices regarding resource needs, customer and employee expectations, and go-to-market strategies. When you are mindful, the focus of those choices will be values-based. Furthermore, if you are cognizant of your strengths and weaknesses, you can leverage your strengths for more significant competitive posturing, and you can turn to third-party relationships to help in areas of deficiency.

Full authenticity

As I mentioned earlier, success in running your company requires that you always show up authentically. If you lack authenticity, you risk reputation damage to your personal brand and your company brand. And as the leader, you risk employees deciding not to follow you when they see your actions do not match your words.

It takes a conscious effort – a choice – to consistently show your authentic self at work in all you do. In the beginning, it may not come naturally, and you may have to force it. But over time, it will become natural to be consistent in your values-based thoughts and actions in all aspects of your business.

As an entrepreneur focusing on building a business, it is easy to overlook non-business situations. And it is easy to don an invisible "mask" to hide your feelings and beliefs. But keep in mind that your personal life intersects with your professional life. In seeking to demonstrate in full authenticity, remember that actions in both areas reflect on each other.

Related: If This Is How You're Doing Authenticity You're Doing It Wrong

Divya Parekh writes entrepreneurial leadership books. She founded Dreams Accelerator Inc., a client-first business growth agency. She is passionate about teaching strategies that empower people, sustain, and scale business growth.

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

Editor's Pick

Business Solutions

Increase Productivity with This Microsoft 365 Subscription, Now $25 Off

It can make the entrepreneur life a lot easier.

Business News

Apple Pay Later Is Ending. Here's What's Taking Its Place.

The program was available for less than a year.


This Artist Answered a Businessman's 'Powerful' Question — Then His Work Became 'the Poster Child for Juneteenth': 'Your Network Really Becomes Your Net Worth'

Reginald Adams was the executive director of a Houston-based art museum for more than a decade before he decided to launch his own public art and design firm.


Harvard Business School Professor Says 65% of Startups Fail for One Reason. Here's How to Avoid It.

Team alignment isn't nice to have -- it's critical for running a successful business.

Business News

Here's What Companies Are Open and Closed on Juneteenth 2024

Since it became a holiday in 2021, Juneteenth has been recognized by some major corporations as a paid day off.

Growing a Business

I Hit $100 Million in Annual Revenue by Being More Transparent — Here Are the 3 Strategies That Helped Me Succeed

Three road-tested ways to be more transparent and build relationships that can transform your business — without leaving you feeling nightmarishly over-exposed.