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Get Real TED: Leading with Authenticity

Get Real TED: Leading with Authenticity

As an executive coach, I’ve watched my fair share of TED Talks. Have you ever noticed how integral the audience’s reactions are to creating the whole TED Talk ambiance? TED Talkers must rehearse for hours on end to trigger those perfectly spaced responses from the audience. All the laughs, oh’s and ah’s emanating from the crowd are always right on beat with the speaker’s choreography.

I have a confession: I hate TED Talks. Don’t get me wrong. I think TED Talkers are amazing visionaries and incredible human beings. But, I find the TED Talk platform overly rehearsed and redundant. The orchestrated atmosphere leaves no room for surprise or misstep. Over time, TED Talks have grown tiresome in their predictable perfection.

Lately I’ve been wondering what the future has in store for TED Talks for two reasons: 1) people increasingly crave more authentic, real interactions. 2) an array of studies show people won’t feel safe gathering in dense crowds for some time due to COVID-19, so studio audiences are probably going to be hard to come by.

When communication is too polished, it gives off a shine that creates a barrier between you and the audience. In the context of business leadership, perfectionistic tendencies are also harmful to the leader and to their teams.

Nothing ever seems to be good enough in these exhausting environments where ultimate perfection is an ever-present pursuit. Leaders who are perfectionists don’t give themselves or anyone else credit. They don’t admit mistakes or allow room for inevitable missteps. Disappointment runs rampant and projects get derailed.

Everyone knows that perfection is rooted in illusion.  So, it’s impossible to cultivate an environment of trust and openness where people feel heard and respected if the untruth of perfection is an undercurrent of communications.

If you want to be an authentic leader, you need to let your walls down. People connect with leaders who are open, clear and sincere communicators who give themselves and everyone else around them permission to be human.