The adjective “authentic” is used to describe someone or something that is “not false or copied; genuine; real.” There are many people in my life who can be described in such a way. Unfortunately, there are more than a couple who are on the other end of the spectrum and are more accurately categorized as “fake” or “counterfeit.” I choose to associate myself with as many authentic people as possible and do my best to steer clear of the frauds. Authentic people are sincere, proud of who they are, and usually have a horrible poker face. Given a choice, who wouldn’t want to surround themselves with authenticity?

I distinctly remember my in-brief at Naval Security Group during my transition from the Sixth Fleet staff to my Executive Officer (XO) tour at Naval Security Group Activity Naples, Italy. Though I enjoyed two weeks of leadership training and one week of legal school in Newport, Rhode Island, it was the 30 minutes one Captain Scott Witt invested in an eager lieutenant that resonates with me to this day. The Deputy Commander, with whom I had a scheduled appointment, was otherwise occupied and like any good officer who embraces opportunities to mentor junior officers, Captain Witt invited me into his office. We spoke of the great leaders with whom I had served at Sixth Fleet, the incredible lessons I learned while supporting Operation ALLIED FORCE, and the great ports a sailor experiences while sailing the Mediterranean. Though reminiscing was enjoyable, it was his advice to a young man about taking on the challenge of being an XO, the way he delivered it, and his personal example that I continue to remember. Though the XO is traditionally a role of “Bad Cop” to the Commanding Officer’s “Good Cop,” he simply recommended I be genuine and not play a role. In other words, he advocated that I, true to his personal example, be authentic. This was simple advice for me to grasp. As flawed as I am, I find it very difficult to play a role that is inconsistent with who I am (my wife and parents can vouch for my lack of ability to lie even in good fun). Don’t get me wrong, there were more than a few times that I was the “Bad Cop,” but when doing so I did it in my own way – and it was never an act.

It appears that the trait of authenticity is a result of both nurture and nature and my friends all share such a trait. We wear our heart on our sleeve, we have no secrets, and we have little patience for those who portray themselves as something they are not.

Be who you are – Be authentic..and surround yourself with people who choose to do the same!

  • How authentic are your most valued teammates?
  • How hard do you try to be something or someone you are not?
  • Would others describe you as authentic?