I listened to an ever fun and funky podcast interview by Marc Maron (WTF) with Katie Couric (episode 745).* The interviewer is interviewed and, in his habitual way, Marc manages to make it very personal and entertaining. As fun as his show is, it is always full of insights. Or rather, it also always makes me reflect. The key topic for me, out of this podcast, was the notion of and need for authenticity.
In this podcast interview, here are the key thoughts I had as I listened while doing my run in the beautiful Parc Monceau in Paris.
Success & Hardship
Katie Couric is a woman with a powerful career, an enormous following, a strong personal brand and who is currently working at Yahoo as Global News Anchor. On the face of it, despite the great success, Couric is able to portray herself as a woman with failings and fears.
During the interview, Couric describes how the death of both her husband and older sister in short order (both from two different cancers) changed her life — in one day — and propelled her to participate in the launch of Stand Up For Cancer. This foundation, founded in 2008, has raised over $500 million, in large part to help the different cancer specialists to collaborate together. As a result, in the midst of a singularly successful career and life, things were turned upside down. If Couric always seemed a “model of success” with her good looks and optimistic character, it was interesting to hear about the ups and downs of her career and life. And it seems that the ups are intimately linked with the downs… which leads me to the big notion: it's about being oneself, through thick and thin, and in one's personal and professional life. Click To Tweet As she said in the interview, the word “authenticity” is overused these days. I’d also say that it’s definitely less frequent to see it and hear it in action. But for Couric, it seems quite frankly true.
Authenticity and Charisma
In my mind, I would like to make a link between charisma and authenticity. In any event, whether it is charisma, charm or energy, the ability to present a full and congruent image is part of being authentic. Couric says in another interview (on Maker.com), “I just feel very comfortable showing all sides [of me].” Her showing all sides — and being comfortable and consistent in the different circumstances — is what legitimizes the term of authenticity.
Authenticity and Personality
Yet, being authentic all the time is not obvious or easy (especially when media is concerned). To begin with, we might justify or rationalize the lack of authenticity due to X or Y reason. For example, when meeting a major dignitary (e.g. the Queen), you have so much protocol to follow, you can’t possibly be yourself. When addressing shareholders at the AGM, there’s no time to introduce personal stories. When interviewing for a hugely important new job, it’s not advisable to veer from your script. Etc… Surely, you can’t be exactly the same person each time. However, the key is to be yourself with integrity. The integrity is at once a question of ethics, but it’s also about congruency.
The Human Paradox
At the same time that Couric and Maron talked about her consistent authenticity and her brilliant career at the big name media companies, Couric admitted, “I have always been a little bit of a rebel….I don’t like authority.” In this very instance, I thought how “regular” it is that someone should be a little bit of a rebel. I mean, everyone has a little rebel in them. It’s how that rebellion is expressed and when it is rendered explicit that makes the difference. A little later in the Maron interview, Couric says, “Even at six, I was a bit of a perfectionist.”
At this point, I stopped directly in my tracks. Is it coherent to be a rebel and a perfectionist? But, is the bigger question more that we are naturally filled with paradoxes? We want to belong, yet be different. We know that many things we do will kill us (e.g. smoking, drinking), but we do it anyway. We smile even when we are sad…
This is the fundamental question that Marc Maron’s podcast made me consider:
Is @katiecouric's authenticity the conclusion or the cause of her success? cc @marcmaron Click To Tweet
I wonder how you react to this? Let me know your thoughts!
*Hopefully, you might be inspired to discover Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. Caution: he uses rather a lot of crude language.