Image of Anna Riek, BSBA 2023, who interviewed communications expert and consultant Pellegrino Riccardi.
Authenticity in business: A conversation between an Olin student and a communication expert

Anna Riek, BSBA 2023, interviewed Pellegrino Riccardi, a master storyteller, communicator and coach, after she watched his TED Talk as part of a class. She shared the video and wrote this for the Olin Blog.

In my interview, “Authenticity in Business,” communication expert Pellegrino Riccardi and I touched on everything from workplace culture to well-being, ending with Riccardi’s advice for graduating college students.

Bringing your whole self to work every day is a long-term investment in your career and your well-being. If you’re not authentic, your mental health suffers, you feel isolated and lonely, and you quickly face burnout. When we remember that inauthenticity is basically lying, it’s no wonder that it’s unsustainable. Authenticity requires integrity, curiosity and bravery.

The topic of authenticity often comes up in business discussions. Authentic leadership has become almost a buzzword, and consumers increasingly look for companies and products with an authentic feel. I’ve thought a lot about authenticity during my four years at WashU—attending events, reading books, writing articles and even giving guest lectures.

Ultimately, I believe it comes down to communication, the fundamental interaction between two humans and an opportunity for empathy, respect and understanding. Who better to discuss all of this with than internationally acclaimed speaker, author and communication expert, Pellegrino Riccardi?

Based in Norway, Riccardi built his career around helping people communicate more authentically, whether that’s between cultures, in a boardroom or in the classroom. After being introduced to his well-known TEDTalk on cross-cultural communication in a leadership class, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm and cold emailed him.

To my delight, he responded and we discussed the topics of authenticity and communication. I gained so much from his insight that I wanted to meet again so we could share our conversations. This interview is for you.

As Riccardi would say, make sure your stage self matches your sofa self. Remember, your true self is what you’re good at. Lean into your strengths. Be open to new opportunities. Embrace imperfection. And culture is contagious, so look for organizations in which authenticity is founded on communication and fostered through psychological safety.


Ekin Pellegrini, an Olin adjunct professor who teaches the organizational behavior class Anna took, wrote to the Olin Blog to say she “went to the extra mile” in a class assignment: “I had assigned a TED Talk that all students were required to study prior to class. Anna not only studied it but also reached out the speaker. She convinced him to do an interview! I hope you will find her enthusiasm for learning and her relentless pursuit of taking initiative worth highlighting.”

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