The A Word

bookAn A-Z Introduction to Ethic’onomics
(excerpts from the highly acclaimed first book from Philip A Birch, ‘An A-Z Introduction to Ethic’onomics; principles and practices of ethical business for the 21st century’.)

Each month the 3rdi magazine has been provided with exclusive rights to issue 1 topic from this book which, in it’s entirety, contains over 100 principles and practices for the enlightened thinkers, ethical leaders, business pioneers and change agents.

As perfectly captioned by the late, great social campaigner, MP and peer, the Rt Hon. Lord Ashley,
“I think it is a splendid piece of work and deserves high praise not just because of the way it is written but also because it tackles an old subject in a fresh way. All too often the moral case goes by the board but it may well be that you have started a new way of approaching the dry subject of economics.”

The A-word

• undisputed credibility • the state of being genuine • not false or imitation

It is no accident that I open this book with the subject of authenticity. It is something of a personal watch-word, a hobby horse, a mantra, a call to arms even.

I have always tried to act with integrity and to be authentic. I stress “tried” because I am under no illusions that at all times I succeed. Throughout the various stages of my career, and styles of my beard’s growth, I had the opportunity, and some would argue misfortune, to look at myself squarely in the face just about every morning. Changing facial-hair fashion and no small degree of narcissism meant that this required varying degrees of skill and always a fair amount of concentration. I cannot count how many times I faced myself and made a mental comment along the lines of “well at least you are being honest, trying your best, not trying to stitch up a colleague, not bucking the system.”
This principle I consciously applied to all my encounters – family, work, social – and I sincerely hope that I succeeded more often than not. I am under no illusion that this made me permanently and universally popular, but at least I knew that I was trying to be consistent, genuine and true to my own personality.

Coming to terms with living in a materially-oriented world and in encountering external forces and influences which are frequently at odds to our own personal values, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite these pressures.

“Even the fear of death is nothing compared to the fear of not having lived authentically and fully.”
Frances Moore Lappe

Authenticity should be simple; just be yourself; “to thine own self be true” and all that. But simple isn’t easy. The bombardment from externalities places us under constant pressure to react and conform, and because authenticity concerns a person’s relation with the world, it cannot be arrived at by simply repeating a set of actions and behaviours or by taking up an unshakeable stance. Authenticity has been associated with creativity on the basis that our behaviour and actions should arise from us individually and not be externally imposed.
We are multi-dimensional beings and have multi-faceted personalities but this should not mean our being hypocritical. Multifaceted does not mean two-faced. unimpeded operation of one’s true or core self in one’s daily enterprise”. Some writers argue that authenticity also requires self-knowledge, and that it alters a person’s relationships with other people; others that authenticity carries with it its own set of moral obligations. I agree with this assessment. There is a moral obligation to be true to yourself in whatever situation you are operating at any given time, but authenticity does not mean that we cannot or should not change. Change is essential to our development (see Change) but it does not require our being false.

How we communicate our true self, thoughts and feelings is a theme throughout the book (see Communication) but, in my opinion, it starts within.

“What we are all striving for is authenticity; a spirit-to-spirit connection.”
Oprah Winfrey

Authenticity is an extremely valuable business principle too. A successful leader needs to communicate in a way that makes people feel that what they do is valuable and relevant. As a leader of a large group, you will have to keep in mind that people need to believe in you, and know that you are genuinely behind any given message. It’s not only what you say but what you truly feel and believe. There are too many examples of “Emperor’s New Clothes” in business: sycophantic executives ignoring their better judgement in order to climb the greasy corporate pole or to protect their own investments and bonuses; the banks and the oil companies serve as wonderful examples. As social creatures we need interaction and when you deliver a message face-to-face, it’s strikingly different than when delivered via some kind of detached, mass communication. We have a responsibility to communicate directly, eyeball-to-eyeball, and with authenticity.

Simple but not easy. We should strive for personal improvement but always remember that we are all just human and nobody can, nor should, expect perfection; that, I understand, is the realm of saints, but there is nothing, excepting our own inclination, that prevents us from striving. We should always try to connect with others authentically.

The3rdimagazine will be serialising excerpts from the book each month. Click on the book image at the top of the page to buy the book itself.

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