Larry Cipolla
September 28, 2013

Prior to Marissa Mayer's productive year-long tenure as Yahoo CEO and Scott Thompson's brief four-month reign—marred by controversy about his academic credentials— their predecessor, Carol Bartz, made a memorable departure from the company.

After being fired as CEO over the phone in October 2011, Bartz told the chairman who had dismissed her that she "thought he was classier." Never known for having much of a filter, Bartz would later call Yahoo's directors "doofuses" and email Yahoo's 14,000 employees to inform them of the nature of her firing.

Bartz's brash actions and the candor she displayed to her fellow employees raises a question that leaders constantly grapple with: what level of authenticity is appropriate to make themselves more relatable to their teams?

Harvard Business Review explored this question in-depth. Much of their analysis has to do with the connection between communication, self-awareness and authenticity, and how an inadequate level of either can create the three types of leaders—oblivious leaders, bumblers, and open books—who fail to be relatable to their employees

When you consider the possible negative impact of "authenticity gone wrong," it's not a stretch to see why so many managers opt instead to put up a firewall between themselves and their employees. These possible consequences include:

  • Diminished reputation and respect
  • Distrust
  • Decreased team cohesion
  • Alienated employees

So, do you have the "deft touch" that HBR contributors Lisa Rosh and Lynn Offerman recommend?

The best way to find out is through leadership assessments taken by those with whom you interact regularly in a workplace environment. These anonymous surveys will reveal aspects of your leadership style that you may not have previously been aware of, such as whether you're striking the right balance between authenticity and oversharing.