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  • The Fine Line Between Saving Face and Authenticity for Your Personal Brand

    Authenticity is one of the foremost buzz words in the personal branding world. It means being true to yourself and those around you by displaying the real you, instead of managing your image. Image management is about constant manipulation to position yourself as favorable in various situations. My feelings are that in the sSaving Facehort-term you may be successful by being someone that you are not and people do get away with it. If you are looking for a long-term career and life success strategy, you MUST be authentic.

    Present the real you, the one that doesn’t wear a mask.

    When you discover your brand, you should be proud of who you are and what value you can contribute to others. The real you, doesn’t need to hide behind a cubicle or a blog. You need to become visible to be mentioned or thought of in people’s evoked set.

    An evoked set is a grouping of the top of mind brands in a certain category. Without that visibility, you will have to waste precious hours in proactive “cold call” pitches to clients or management. When conducting business or in personal situations, you are faced with the major obstacle of saving face versus remaining authentic. I’ve been pondering for the past few months.

    Saving Face

    Sometimes you are faced with situations that call for abrasive or non-intrusive actions. If your manager asks you to perform a task that you deem to be a mistake or something that you shouldn’t be involved in, then you must resort to making a decision. If you’ve seen the movie Dogma, then you probably remember that there is a devil and an angel side to everyone. The angel does the right thing, while the devil is a trouble maker.

    • Option A (Devil): I want to please my manager, so I will do absolutely anything in my power to accomplish the task asked of me. I want to get a bonus, raise, promotion or attention from him or her, so I feel that by listening and initiating a course of action of his or her request will help me reach that goal. Even if this goes against my best judgment, I know I have to do it to survive in this job.
    • Option B (Angel): This project doesn’t make sense from an operational perspective nor for my current position. I simply don’t have time, the expertise or confidence to make this happen. My brand and that oDevil Angel Personal Brandf the company will take a hit if I accept this project. I will tell my manager that I will pass.

    This may also happen with your social life. Say your talking to a member of the opposite sex and want to impress them. If you tell them your superman, but your really Clark Kent, then you aren’t being authentic. In this way, you are managing your image to appear as “a good catch” or someone worthy of their time. Lying may get you a few more dates, but if you ever make it to a relationship, then the truth will come out.

    • Option A (Devil): For work, I run my own business, with 30 employees and gross $1 million in revenue each year from my house. On weekends I go to nightclubs with VIP access and have drinks with some hometown celebrities.
    • Option B (Angel): I work at a small advertising firm, where I’m involved in creative design and execution. On weekends, I tend to go to movies and go to nearby bars.

    Option A sounds better, but the perceived expectations will increase, as well as your failure to take the conversation much further.

    “Brown-nosing” / “Kissing-up”

    I don’t know anyone who hasn’t nodded their head, smiled or said “great idea” to a person they may not like or disagree with in one way or another. Are we not being authentic if we are purposely agreeing with someone, when we want to disagree? What if being nice to this person will help your career? Everyone has fell victim to the idea of “brown-nosing” because they are forced into a situation where they must be considerate in order to be stable. I think you have to be careful who you talk to.

    On one hand, your audience may enjoy an argument or another point of view, while on the other, they may fire you based on your stance on a topic. A lot of this is about “ego.” You can damage someone’s ego or you can pat it on the back. This is based on the person you are speaking with and their status level in an organization. If you want to be authentic in every situation, it might get you in trouble, but if you don’t it might too.

    Ethics and Remaining Authentic

    I’ve had a few friends that have been asked to do things that are unethical by managers. If the “ask” goes against your brand and what you stand for, then I would say to back away from it. Don’t let anyone force you to do something you don’t think it ethical. Business ethics are really important these days and firms, such as Enron, have been put out of business due to bad practice. The last thing you want to do is to portray your personal brand as unethical. If for some reason, you value compensation over ethics, then at some point you will be caught and won’t be able to get another job.

    To be ethical means learning how to say “no.”


    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Career Development, Dating, Personal Branding, Positioning, Reputation Management
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    7 comments on “The Fine Line Between Saving Face and Authenticity for Your Personal Brand
    1. avatar
      Lewis Green says:


      Excellent post. Let’s just be ourselves and let people get to know us, warts and all. Thanks for the shout out.

    2. avatar
      Brandon says:

      This is the struggle of politicians. Do I make decisions that reflect me or do I choose what will get me elected/keep me elected.

    3. avatar
      Dan Schawbel says:

      Good analogy. There are politicians in politics, just like in business.

    4. avatar
      Trisha says:

      And let’s not forget that every time you lie to someone else, you are lying to yourself. By lying, you are telling your brain to not believe your self-talk, so even if you tell yourself “I can do it” your brain won’t believe it.

      …it’s a funny bit of psychology. You can read more about it in my personal blog in the Uniform Social Standards tag.

    5. avatar
      Brandon says:

      Thank you Dan. I am noticing during this presidential election that the candidates are having trouble branding themselves and seem to shift quite often. There are also fighting pre-existing notions. Do you see this too?

    6. avatar
      Brandon says:

      I’m sorry. I meant the last sentence to read: “They’re…..”

    7. avatar

      Great post Dan. I think everyone can relate to experiencing both sides of these choices. And hopefully seeing the results of both. Long-term I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen someone pull off any “Option A’s” and not have karma seek it’s revenge. It’s always better to stick to your ethics and protect your brand.

    3 Pings/Trackbacks for "The Fine Line Between Saving Face and Authenticity for Your Personal Brand"
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    3. […] Personal Brand Stereotypes #7: A Nice Car Means You’re Successful April 11, 2008 at 11:15 am | In Personal Branding, Positioning | Tags: aston martin, rich After dealing with ageism, I wanted to talk about social classes and how they are perceived by what they wear or what product brands they are attached to.  James Bond drives an Aston Martin in many of his films, which includes the DB5 classic car and the Vanguish. You can’t tell me that those wouldn’t profile him as a rich, successful and attractive person to females and business associates. The products we touch, the people we go out with and the companies that hire us all impact our personal brand perception. A lot of people are giving advice such as “fake it until you make it,” but that isn’t authentic. […]

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