In an age of ‘alternative facts’, ‘fake news’ and leaders who blatantly lie without blinking, we can’t be blamed for our search and desire for authenticity.

It’s exhausting. But what are we looking for? The Truth?

Maybe, we can’t handle the truth.

Asking for authenticity from our leaders, be it our employees, teachers, mentors, bosses, or world leaders might seem like a logical move but is that what we really want?

Let’s take a closer look at what ‘being authentic’ means and why we may not want it after all.

Social Media vs. Authenticity

Speaking of real and authentic, how about a trip through someone’s social media. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, to hear them tell it, but it’s typically a facade or arranged to make others, and moreover, them, believe it. Everyone is guilty of doing it, but is it okay?

If you are looking at a picture of someone’s new car and feeling a little jealous, don’t. If you are wondering how they can manage to pay for it, so are they.

If we were all to be authentic on social media, and let’s face it, some people are, it could become a depressing place to be. There is the other extreme, as well, where people feel the need to blow up and exaggerate every little snag and flaw, but we don’t want to see that, either. It makes us feel guilty.

When people are honest on their social media, “I’m scared, I’m hungry, I’m broke’, people look away. It’s a TMI, too much information situation we are not ready to embrace. If we read that and react, then we also feel a responsibility to them to lend an ear or a hand or money (cue the ‘donate’ button).

Where Does That Leave Us?

Authenticity comes to us in many forms, and depending on who we are and what we want, it depends on how much of it we really want. We live in a world of knock-offs, reproductions, and life-likes.

So what? We may ask. We should ask.

When we ask our peers or leaders to be authentic, what does that really mean? We don’t see people as authentic on their terms, but rather, ours. There is a famous quote by author Anais Nin that says, ‘We don’t see things as are, we see them as we are’.

It’s our own version of authenticity we crave to see.

If our leaders or society performs in a way that we don’t agree with, we are all too quick to deem them false. But we are judging them based on our core values, not theirs.

Please Be Authentic.

No, The Other Authentic

We may ask our leaders to be authentic but what we are really asking is for them to be authentic to the organization or companies’ values. True to what we deem to be real, not necessarily what their own core values are.

Herein lies the challenge.

Asking for leaders to be authentic and then condemning them for stepping outside the lines is a slippery slope. What companies are asking is for them to assimilate with the company values, not necessarily their personal ones.

Go Ahead, Ask

People always blur the truth on their resumes, in interviews, and on the job all the time.

Perhaps for potential employers and employees, there needs to be more rigor around the interview questions each has – to truly gauge if, how and when someone is a true culture fit. After all, everyone wants this relationship to work out right? It’s not easy for either side and you both want to get it right.

Maybe the answer is in the question. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you really want the answers for. Skip the standard down-pat questions and opt for situational and behavioral interview questions. Cut to the chase and find out if:

  • Will they enjoy working with you?
  • Are you genuinely excited about the opportunity?
  • Do you have the core capabilities to do the job?

Feel Like An Imposter?

Curious if you’re suffering from a lack of authenticity? Here are several questions to get you thinking:

  • Do you lie to yourself about what really matters to you?
  • Do you compare yourself to others and come up lacking?
  • Do you run on empty in order to impress others?
  • Do you pretend to have a picture-perfect life?
  • Do you hold back when you are not sure of the next steps?
  • Do you need brand name clothes and shiny cars to prove your worth?
  • Do you spend your time proving to family or your culture you are worthy?
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IN CLOSING: Asking for authenticity from your newly acquired Pablo Picasso is wise. Asking it from our leaders requires patience and a clear understanding from the beginning to ensure you get the masterpiece you are hoping for.

We all have a version of ourselves we have to put on. One at home, one at work, one in social situations, etc. The key is to understanding who you are when you are by yourself and have no one to answer to.

The Floor Is Yours: Is it asking too much for others to be authentic?