When Beyoncé and Jay Z’s “On the Run II” stadium tour swung through Texas, I was lucky enough to snag a ticket. It wasn’t my first Beyoncé concert, but it was the most memorable. Why? The audience experienced the real Beyoncé.
Always a phenomenal performer, Bey has raised the bar even higher with songs that reflect what’s happening in her life and what’s truly important to her. She sings of her husband’s infidelity. Of fame and how it’s affected her. Of keeping friends close.
Observers can see and feel the difference. She’s removed her mask and is showing realness. It has taken years for her to be this open and real to her audience, and it makes her fans relate back to her — and adore her — even more.
Forging Connections by Removing Our Masks
As workplaces become more diverse and inclusive, we can all take a lesson from Beyoncé about removing our masks: When we share our true, authentic selves, it’s easier for people to relate to us. In turn, we can better connect with our colleagues, no matter their ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation or religion.
Being authentic can take a few different forms, including sharing distinctive, innovative ideas, even if they may be unfamiliar or confusing to your colleagues. By standing in your truth, you can gain the respect of your colleagues, be in a better position to introduce even more ideas, and have more energy to focus on your work vs. masking who you really are.
Beyoncé’s current tour isn’t the first time she’s showed us how authenticity is done. At the Coachella music festival in April, she rocked a two-hour performance that paid homage to black culture and historically black colleges and universities. Her performance introduced the world to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Black National Anthem. Backed by a marching band and dancers, Beyonce presented a step show and a probate (coming out ceremony) for pledges of her own fictional fraternity — modeled after Black Greek fraternal organizations — which was another unique concept for many in the Coachella audience.
After the performance, Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles wrote in an Instagram post that she was “afraid the predominantly white audience at Coachella would be confused by all of the black culture and black college culture because it was something they might not get.” But Beyoncé was undaunted, telling her mother, “I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice, and at this point in my life and my career, I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.”
Similarly, it can take time to arrive at a place in our career where we feel comfortable enough to express our authentic self. The timing can depend on how long we’ve held the job and our organization’s culture.
A Responsibility to Be Yourself
Once we get there, though, it’s truly the responsibility of each of us to let our uniqueness shine. Being inauthentic is like diversity without inclusion: You show up for work, but without contributing your thoughts and feelings, you’re not contributing to your fullest.
Beyonce’s realness and authenticity show throughout her work, in her performances, recorded music, magazine covers and even Instagram posts. As the “On the Run II” tour wound down, Beyoncé shared the following Instagram post: “Tonight is the first of the last 10 shows of OTRII. I’m doing what I love most with whom I love most. I wish it could never end.”
There’s no question that co-workers aren’t fans, and our workplaces aren’t arenas. But authenticity transcends pop culture and has meaning for all of us. It can give us the chance to do our best work while also doing the work we love. We should learn from Beyonce, and be as authentic as she is in our own work.
We’ve assembled some of Cognizant’s keenest minds to share their thoughts on how businesses can improve diversity and inclusion, both in an e-book, “Making Room: Reflections on Diversity & Inclusion in the Future of Work,” and a blog series.
In addition to our kick-off article on D&I in the tech industry, our upcoming blogs will cover an array of topics, grouped in four categories:
- The future of work (including blogs on moving beyond the D&I buzzword and why the future of work hinges on D&I).
- What makes us uniquely human in a machine age (including lessons from Beyoncé on authenticity, what global businesses can learn from small businesses and ensuring human centricity in a data-driven culture).
- Addressing bias (including overcoming ageism, dispelling working-mom myths, embracing adaptive technologies and using technology to tackle hiring bias).
- Working with community partners (including renovating youth development with the Lower Eastside Girls Club, empowering women through sponsorship, upskilling underrepresented talent and some bright lights of innovative D&I efforts that are actually making headway).
We invite you to read and welcome your comments to continue this vital discussion.
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