Renowned Stanford GSB Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer argues that that the current popularity of authenticity in leadership practice is actually misplaced. He suggests that being "usefully inauthentic" is more suited to corporate life - that we should stop focusing on what leaders "should" do and focus on what they actually do.
It's a pretty cynical perspective overall - and perhaps reflects the current state of corporate America.
That said, I must admit to being a fan of leaving "should" out of our thinking. I tend to think that focussing on what is - and proactively taking action to deliver what can be - is much more effective than postulating about what "should" be.
To be authentic means to be in touch with and express one’s true feelings, and although that may sound good, he says, in reality it doesn’t make sense. “Leaders don’t need to be true to themselves; in fact, being authentic is the opposite of what they should do.” It’s far more important for leaders to understand what a particular situation requires and to act in an appropriate way, says Pfeffer. “Leaders need to be true to what the situation demands and what the people around them want and need,” he says. “Each of us plays a number of different roles in our lives, and people behave and think differently in each of those roles, so demanding authenticity doesn’t make sense.”