10 Aug

It Ain’t About Authenticity, People.

My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.

Authenticity. You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

In fact, I’m pretty sure a lot of us are confusing authenticity with integrity. Or even if we’re not, we’re putting the emphasis on the wrong quality.

Authenticity is about being real. But real-ness isn’t the issue. When we’re going around urging people to be authentic, we’re not asking them to be real. People, and the organizations they run and serve, arereal.

We just might not like them or the way they operate very much. In those cases, “be authentic” means “be different”—and therefore, not authentic. You are authentic, no matter what you do. So let’s take that one off the table, shall we?

What about transparency? Transparency itself used to be a choice: you either were or you weren’t transparent. But now the choice is between active and passive transparency: Will you reveal your code of operations, or will it be revealed for you? We may wish for someone (or something) to make a different choice there, but really, that one’s all about making it easier on us.

What I think we really want is for people and organizations to act with integrity. Integrity is about honesty. Or at the very least, it’s about consistently following a (predictable) moral or ethical code.

And that, I think, is what we’re after: we want people and organizations to behave predictably. But the tricky thing is, we want people and organizations to act predictably in a way we agree with. When faced with a code we don’t agree with, it makes us uncomfortable, even angry, and rightly so.

So how do these three interact? I can’t say it better than @SueSpaight already did:

You can be transparent and authentic, and still have no integrity. Integrity is the highest order.

Now the question is, are we comfortable with the judgment that entails?

Note: this post originally appeared on ‘Round the Square.