Bridge over ocean
1 November 2013 CFA Institute Journal Review

Be Yourself, but Carefully (Digest Summary)

  1. Marc L. Ross, CFA

Used properly, self-revelation can be an effective leadership tool. The authors closely consider the practice.

What’s Inside?

Being yourself and using that sincerity effectively is a delicate art. This behavioral approach, when taken too far, can result in oversharing, which can undermine your intentions.

How Is This Research Useful to Practitioners?

What you say and how you say it is important, but how much you say is equally critical. Sincerity can be well-received when delivered properly. If sincerity is poorly communicated, the damage to your image can be considerable.

The authors have spent years studying and consulting on leadership development, team building, and communication skills. Their work helps readers identify the challenges and pitfalls of sincerity. They offer a taxonomy of executive profiles along a continuum of self-revelation and propose a five-part tool for effective communication.

Some leaders lack self-knowledge. They are either disingenuous—aware of themselves but not of how they appear to others—or effusive and excessively revelatory, which makes them appear indiscreet and untrustworthy. At the other end of the spectrum are the inscrutable types who appear aloof because they are reluctant (or find it difficult) to communicate. The authors argue that social engineers often fail to share and are inept at reading social cues. These shortcomings can be compounded by misguided efforts to foster self-disclosure, such as mandatory external team-building exercises (e.g., offsite retreats) without encouragement of the practice in the day-to-day office setting.

The authors offer best practices in self-revelation. First, know yourself and what experiences have shaped your worldview; it is the only way to know what is appropriate to reveal. Second, know how to be open and honest in a manner relevant to the task at hand. Does your disclosure help to get the job done, or would it be better suited to a non-office setting? Third, keep it real. Embellishment will be discovered, and you will look insincere. Fourth, know and understand the organizational and cultural context. Adjust the level of candor accordingly. Finally, avoid revealing very personal disclosures, which can be off-putting. A surfeit of overly personal information may detract from your image and credibility.

Self-revelation is often a challenge for those in the investment management profession—a world of ideas but also, necessarily, of people. A skillful practitioner needs to practice and fine-tune the art of self-disclosure to develop good communication and effective results.

Abstractor’s Viewpoint

Effective leadership starts with good communication, which, in turn, starts with self-awareness and the ability to make it relevant to the job at hand. The authors identify the problem and offer solutions using real-world examples. Theirs is a most worthy undertaking in the study of management theory.

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