2023’s words of the year actually make sense together in business world

By JJ Rosen December 24, 2023
2023's words of the year actually make sense together in business world

This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”― T.S. Eliot

The Merriam-Webster and Oxford University Press dictionary publishers just announced their respective words of the year for 2023.

Webster’s word is an oldie but a goody: “authentic.”

While Oxford went with something new that old people like me had never heard of before: “rizz.” (Apparently “Swifties” came in a close second.)

Both terms are timely.

Authentic, defined as “true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character,” feels like something we all need right now.  In a year that’s been dominated by AI-generated content, misinformation challenges, and social media feeds of perpetually happy people — craving authenticity makes sense.

Rizz started as a slang term before it made its way into the dictionary.  Oxford defines “rizz” as “style, charm or attractiveness” or “the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.”

When I asked my kids, they said it’s just a cool way of saying “charisma” and recommended that I not attempt to use it. I asked why not, and they laughed and pointed out that at my age, it wouldn’t be authentic.

In the workplace, both rizz and authenticity play important roles.

Charisma (aka rizz), like it or not, is often seen as a requirement for those in leadership positions. Successful CEO’s usually need some level of rizz to motivate their teams, network with other leaders, and make sales.

But by the same token, authenticity is a critical trait for long-term success.  No matter how much rizz someone has, if they are inauthentic, they will eventually be exposed and lose the respect of their teams.

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What’s tricky is that for most of us, having rizz and being authentic often oppose one another.

Authenticity inherently involves exposing your vulnerabilities (we all have them), which sometimes can come off as uncharismatic.  No one likes a leader that is perceived to have a lack of confidence.

But if you “fake it till you make it” with rizz — hiding your true self consistently — you live with the fear of eventually being exposed as an imposter.

So, how can you have charisma and authenticity at the same time?

At the risk of losing some rizz, I’ll admit that I’m no pro (especially on the rizz side.) But in looking at leaders I admire who have managed to balance the two, here’s what they have in common:

  • Confidence without arrogance.  Confidence with humility is charismatic and authentic.
  • Self-awareness.  Know thyself.  You must acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses in order to be genuine with others.
  • Respect and appreciation for others. Complimenting others’ achievements is charismatic when it’s authentic.
  • Empathetic. Empathy helps in building deep and meaningful connections, enhancing both your authenticity and charisma.
  • Passion.  Having rizz and authenticity at work requires enthusiasm. True passion can’t be faked.
  • Personal story telling.  Sharing personal stories is a way to boost rizz and authenticity at the same time. Good leaders tell good stories that show vulnerability and lessons learned.

When it works, charismatic and authentic leaders are approachable.  They are respected without being intimidating.  They balance optimism and realism.  And most of all they help both their co-workers, customers and companies succeed.

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JJ Rosen is the founder of Atiba, a custom software development firm and Nashville IT support company. Visit Atiba.com for more info.

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