Your route to the top: Be authentic

Sell your differences. Authenticity is not just about knowing yourself but how you communicate that to others. Bill Gates plays on his 'geekiness' and is viewed as a passionate and knowledgeable techie.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

But be a chameleon. We can present different sides of ourselves in different situations; the trick is to keep it coherent. Jean Tomlin, former HR director at Marks & Spencer, explains: 'Before I go into a situation, I prepare what I'm going to say and who I am going to be. I want to be me, but channeling parts of me into context.'

Remember your roots. Niall FitzGerald, former chairman at Unilever, speaks often and with insight about his Irish heritage and the influence of his mother on both his moral and political views. Share the experiences in your early life or career that have had the greatest impact on you.

Break the mould. Rather than following the 'GE way', the 'Branson way' or the Harvard MBA way, find your own way.

Don't shrink from the truth - even if the news is tough. As consumers, we all appreciate it when a leader steps up and says: 'The buck stops with me.' Scripted or not, that sounds more authentic than the sugarcoated messages offered by many bosses.

Go beyond your comfort zone. Practise adapting to your new surroundings while remaining yourself. Whether you take on a challenging project or secondment abroad, find out who you really are.

Walk the talk. You will never gain credibility if you fail to live by your own convictions. Eliot Spitzer, ex-governor of New York, spent his tenure trying to clean up the use of prostitutes and other lawless activities from the city. Then he was caught out as a regular client of a high-level brothel. You must practise what you preach.

- 'The Mind Gym: Give me time' is published by Time Warner Books (£12.99). Contact the firm at

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