Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Apr 29, 2023

In this episode, Dan connects with scholar and organizational and leadership development practitioner, Dr. Tom Tonkin, to discuss authenticity and sincerity in the workplace and beyond. 

Authenticity is often lauded as a key quality in leadership, fostering trust and building strong relationships within an organization. However, the term itself can be misunderstood and difficult to pin down due to its connection to subjective feelings, emotions, and beliefs. Authenticity is self-referential; overemphasis can lead to issues in the workplace, as individuals may prioritize their own self-expression over the needs of their team or company. Instead, it is important to balance personal authenticity with a broader understanding of the context in which we operate – including the values, goals, and perspectives of others. 

Tom and Dan dig into this topic as Tom shares his insights into the problem of focusing too much on authenticity in leadership. He highlights the inherent subjectivity of authenticity, as one person's perception of honesty may differ from another's. Tom argues that while being true to oneself is important, it is equally necessary to consider how our actions and decisions impact others. How? By embracing sincerity, an other-centric approach, incorporating empathy and understanding to forge deeper, more meaningful connections with those around us.

Here's what you can expect from the show:

  • Consider the implications of embracing authenticity in the workplace, especially when it comes to relationship-building and leadership.
  • Reflect on the four dimensions of authenticity: internal morality, self-awareness, transparency, and balanced processing.
  • Assess the alignment between your internal morality and the ethics of your workplace or industry.
  • Develop a greater sense of self-awareness to better understand how your actions and decisions impact others.
  • Practice transparency by openly sharing your thoughts, feelings, and motives with your colleagues or team members.
  • Implement balanced processing by considering various perspectives and ideas when making decisions.
  • Evaluate your leadership style and consider how incorporating authenticity might affect your ability to lead and engage with others.
  • Be open to questioning and challenging accepted norms or ideas, such as the concept of authenticity in the workplace.
  • Research and learn from academic studies and theories that can provide valuable insights into workplace practices and behaviors.
  • Recognize that authenticity is not a one-size-fits-all concept and that individuals may interpret and apply it differently.

About Tom

Dr. Tom Tonkin is a renowned expert on authenticity and sincerity in leadership and communication, offering a unique behavioral perspective on these important topics. With a deep understanding of organizational and leadership development, Tom holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and has spent countless hours researching and analyzing the intricate dynamics of business relationships. He is the founder and CEO of Sales Conservatory, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations improve their leadership and communication strategies. Tom's wealth of knowledge and experience in this field, as well as his passion for sincerity, make him a sought-after authority on effective leadership and communication.

Notable Quotes

  • “The more I did research on authenticity with the express purpose of relationship building, the more disillusioned I became.” – (2:06)
  • “We can say words but it’s actually the recipient that brings those words to life.” – (19:58)
  • “Honesty is the #1 trait of leadership.” – (29:15)
  • “We don’t have enough honesty in our leadership ranks.” (34:12)
  • “People say things like that’s my truth when the fact of the matter is there is only one truth. – (45:50)
  • “Empathy is an association to feelings; sympathy is a disassociation.” – (1:01:13)

Resources and Links 

The Dan Nestle Show 

Dr. Tom Tonkin


Timestamped summary of this episode:

00:00:00 - Introduction, 
Dan Nestle introduces the topic of authenticity and questions its meaning in the workplace. He introduces the guest, Dr. Tom Tonkin, who has researched authenticity and offers a unique perspective on it.

00:03:09 - The Disillusionment with Authenticity,
Dr. Tom Tonkin explains his journey with authenticity and how his research on the topic led him to be disillusioned with it, especially in terms of relationship building in the workplace.

00:05:53 - The Context of Authenticity,
Dr. Tom Tonkin explores the context of authenticity, tracing its roots back to transformational leadership, and how authenticity can be self-referential, creating potential problems in relationship building.

00:09:16 - The Operational View of Leadership,
Dr. Tom Tonkin explains the operational view of leadership, which focuses on the force exerted on followers to achieve a common goal. He also discusses the concept of internalized morality and how it relates to authenticity.

00:16:07 - The Meaning of Authenticity,
Dan Nestle and Dr. Tom Tonkin discuss the meaning of authenticity and its importance in the workplace. They highlight the need to balance being true to oneself while also considering the needs of others and the company.

00:17:53 - Authenticity and Leadership Qualities,
Tom Tonkin and Dan Nestle discuss the difference between behaviors and qualities in terms of authenticity and leadership. They explore the concept of self-awareness and the importance of transparency and balance processing.

00:19:25 - The Meaning of Words and Authenticity,
Tom explains the importance of the meaning of words and how the recipient brings those words to life. He uses the example of authenticity in Mexican restaurants, where different restaurants have different authentic tacos. He emphasizes that authenticity is self-referential and varies from person to person.

00:25:01 - Honesty as a Key Leadership Trait,
Tom discusses how honesty is consistently ranked as the most important leadership trait in the book, The Leadership Challenge. He explores why honesty is so highly valued and suggests that it is because people want to trust their leaders and believe that they are on the right path.

00:29:09 - Honesty in Leadership,
Dan and Tom discuss the importance of honesty in leadership and how it relates to trust. They explore the idea that there is an honesty problem in many aspects of society, including politics and industry.

00:34:00 - Lack of Honesty in Society,
Tom suggests that the more plausible explanation for why honesty is consistently ranked as the most important leadership trait is that there is a lack of honesty in our society, especially in leadership positions. Dan and Tom agree that there is an honesty problem in many areas of society.

00:35:25 - The Problem with Honesty and Authenticity,
The conversation starts with a discussion on honesty and authenticity. The guest, Tom Tonkin, explains that honesty can mean different things to different people, and authenticity has the same problem. He also talks about how internal morality defines one's sense of honesty, and how it can differ from one person to another.

00:37:09 - Differentiating Authenticity and Sincerity,
Tonkin shares how he was initially disillusioned with the concept of authenticity and turned to sincerity. He defines sincerity as being other-centric and describes his three tenets of sincerity: empathy, purposeful altruism, and demonstrable affirmation. Tonkin also talks about the problem with the misuse of the words authenticity and sincerity.

00:43:46 - Empathy as the Key to Sincerity,
Tonkin explains how empathy is one of the core tenets of sincerity and how it plays a crucial role in decision-making. He also shares an example of how he had to lie to his mother, who had severe dementia, about her father's death, and how empathy played a significant role in his decision.

00:48:20 - The Importance of Standardizing Language,
Tonkin talks about the importance of standardizing language and the misuse of adjectives and adverbs that alter perception. He explains how words like bad and good can be problematic, as they are subject to interpretation, and how we need to have a standardization of concepts to understand reality objectively.

00:52: - The Continuum of Lies,
Tonkin talks about the continuum of lies, where a lie is acceptable if it causes no harm. He also refers to Sabrina Horn's book, "Make It, Don't Fake It," and how she explains the different kinds of lies and when they are acceptable. Tonkin concludes by emphasizing the importance of empathy and sincerity in decision-making.

00:53:15 - Defining Purposeful Altruism,
Tom Tonkin introduces purposeful altruism as a concept that goes beyond traditional altruism, which is often questioned for its true motives. Purposeful altruism aims to have a purpose behind the act of giving, with no expectation of receiving anything in return.

00:57:27 - Empathy and the Power of Noticing,
Tonkin emphasizes the importance of noticing in understanding empathy. He shares a story about how Alan Alda improved his empathy by noticing people and creating backstories about them. Tonkin highlights the power of empathy to change perspectives and connect with others.

01:02:07 - Demonstrable Affirmation,
Tonkin stresses the need for demonstrable affirmation to show sincerity. He suggests that actions speak louder than words and speaks about the importance of doing something to affirm beliefs and show empathy towards others.

01:03:27 - The Ethics of Sincerity,
Tonkin differentiates between ethics and morality and emphasizes that sincerity is an ethical play, aimed at bettering someone else's life within a social context. He notes that sincerity is not rainbows and unicorns but involves doing good and affecting good in a social context.

01:07:23 - Sincerity vs. Authenticity,
Tonkin contrasts sincerity with authenticity, noting that authenticity is focused on the self, while sincerity is focused on the other. While both may lead to good outcomes, sincerity takes a more direct path and is not focused on self-referential points.

01:09:12 - Authenticity vs. Sincerity,
Tom Tonkin and Dan Nestle discuss the difference between authenticity and sincerity. Tonkin argues that authenticity has been overused and has led to problems because people have different value sets. Sincerity, on the other hand, requires getting to know someone and understanding their values.

01:10:13 - The Paradox of Authenticity,
Tonkin and Nestle explore the paradox of authenticity. Tonkin argues that if being authentic takes work, then it's not authentic, and this is a paradox. He believes that we need to move away from the idea of bringing our authentic selves to work and focus on being trustworthy, transparent and demonstrating integrity.

01:17:01 - The Abstract Nature of Organizations,
Tonkin and Nestle discuss the abstract nature of organizations and how people often talk about things like "the organization thinks" or "leadership thinks" when really it's just the CEO or leadership team's opinions. Tonkin argues that it's important to personalize things and focus on individuals rather than abstract concepts.

01:19:45 - Empathy vs. Compassion,
Tonkin and Nestle discuss the difference between empathy and compassion. Tonkin argues that empathy is not always helpful, particularly in a therapeutic context, where a third-party view is often more beneficial. He believes that companies need to focus on interventions based on immutable facts rather than feelings.

01:25:06 - Building Policies based on Immutable Truths,
Tonkin argues that policies should be based on immutable truths rather than subjective feelings. For example, companies with boards that have men and women are more profitable than those with only men or only women. Tonkin believes that companies should focus on immutable facts to create policies that are good for business and their employees.

01:26:02 - Treating People Equally,
Tom and Dan discuss the importance of treating people equally regardless of race or gender. They also touch on the issue of diversity and inclusion, highlighting the importance of ensuring that qualified candidates are hired regardless of their background.

01:27:18 - Cognitive Truth vs. Feelings,
Tom and Dan dive into the concept of cognitive truth and sincerity versus authenticity. They question the validity of feelings as a basis for authenticity and suggest that sincerity is more important in the workplace.

01:28:13 - Book Publication,
Tom talks about his upcoming book and the process of negotiating with agents and publishers. He hopes to contribute to a healthy debate on the topic of authenticity and sincerity in the workplace.

01:29:24 - Immutable Truths,
Tom and Dan emphasize the importance of honest debate and discourse in society. They hope that people will continue to question ideas and grow, and that sincerity will become a more readily available concept in the workplace.

01:32:25 - Call to Action,
Dan encourages listeners to subscribe, rate, and review the podcast, and to share it with their friends. He thanks Tom for sharing his thoughts and contributing to a healthy debate on the topic of authenticity and sincerity in the workplace.