Authenticity Offers Its Own Beauty

Authenticity is what turns a pretty picture into a priceless work of art. Likewise it is what people look for -- or should -- in their personal relationships.

I believe this holds true for our relationships with businesses as well; whether as consumers or employees, members of the community, or investors.

It is time that we put an end to appearances for appearances sake. Just as putting on the suit and tie (the business costume) and 'dressing for success' to be taken seriously in business is fast becoming obsolete.

Casual Fridays and casual work places have demonstrated that the work that is done does not rely on how people dress to perform the work (excluding, of course, safety and quality considerations).

To the latest generation of workers who no longer see the world through the previous generations' lenses of race, color, gender, etc., true business leaders are starting to understand that truly embracing diversity means more thank ticking a box on a form or ensuring a percentage of people in the workplace reflect the ethnic, gender, faith and cultural diversity of the community around them. It is not about filling quotas or managing appearances.

Today inclusion means not only accepting, but embracing and encouraging the differences of thought, ideas and ideals associated with differences of gender, faith, heritage, background, generation, experiences, physical ability, sexual orientation and even personality.

I believe it is especially hard for women to be taken seriously as professional in 'a man's world' unless they try to act 'cut from the same cloth' as everyone else. But just look where that got us.

Most people remember Melanie Griffin's line from the movie 'Working Girl' "I have a head for business and a bod for sin." but forget this was a response to Harrison Ford's character stating "I am sure you are a real ace at whatever it is you do do, but the way you look ..."

Why should the way she looked matter? And a quarter a century later I see a number of examples where people are not willing to put on specific clothing or adopt a personality to get ahead in this world.

Richard Branson hasn't moderated his personality to be a success -- it is part of it. Elon Musk seems to follow his own vision. Indra Nooyi at Pepsi is true to her 'real' self. Paul Paulson (Unilever) told the day traders he was not interested in their influence on his company and stopped issuing quarterly earnings reports. Similarly Apple's Tim Cook wasn't trying to go along to get along when he told climate deniers to invest somewhere else.

More and more the most successful and transformative people in the world are not hiding - they are embracing who they are.

And this goes for small businesses as well as large. My friend Pete Cocolis recently celebrated 10 years of his dental practice in Northern Virginia, a success -- especially in the recently difficult economy -- because he stayed true to the personal values that drove him to form his own practice; including standing by his work, giving back to the community and, above all, treating people as people first, and patients second.

Just as my generation abandoned the traditional suit and tie, today's younger workers are also transforming the workplace. And if it can be values-based rather than focusing on appearance, than the art of business will be transformed into a much prettier picture.

Who knows? We might create a masterpiece.

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