One of the key criteria for the Conscious Companies awards is “authenticity”. It is a very convoluted word. Following Donald Trump’s election as the President of the United States, social media giant Facebook was faced with an onslaught of criticism for allowing “fake news” to influence the elections. Since then, Facebook updated their usage policy, and recently they removed a group in the Philippines for “co-ordinated inauthentic behaviour.” Even the IEC created an online platform to deal with “fake news” for our own national elections. Authenticity is a word that gets thrown around a lot, in the “leadership” and “consciousness” spaces. Is the “authentic leader” just a rare sighting, or is it a myth? Is there such a thing as being truly authentic, or are the moments of authenticity just padded with our pattern of fulfilling the expectations of our colleagues, communities and society?
It also seems as though artificial authenticity is on the rise again. Every company wants to appear green-friendly, caring, or responsible, but very few actually want to be green- friendly, caring, or responsible. As long as there are sufficient likes for our hashtags and CSI contributes to our BBBEE, then we will contribute as much as we have to. So why not fluff up a politician? After all, our perception is our reality.
If true authenticity is when your values and beliefs align with your behaviour, then the leaders and individuals with malevolent intent who act on their internal desires, are in fact more authentic than those that wear a mask of consciousness. Does it matter if an expression of kindness and belongingness to the community that an organisation exists in is genuinely philanthropic, or can we still add it to the win column?
I don’t have a lot of answers, just a lot of questions. Perhaps kindness can take on many forms. Whether it’s kindness that is plastered on Facebook or done without any expectation of recognition, it doesn’t matter. That “sponsored post” could spark the flame of the next visionary of our time. For many, the anonymity has helped to avoid any self-righteous traps, but maybe if we discovered what true authenticity means, then we will be able to celebrate companies and leaders who are conscious. We can wear many hats. We can know when to be silent, know when to bang on our drum, and know when to be somewhere in-between.
Becoming authentic can be a lifetime process. It can be a continuous commitment to learning about ourselves and how we see the world, so that it can be used to influence and inspire others by revealing little bits of truth and understanding. That is the type of commitment that shapes our businesses, colleagues, family, community, country and ultimately, our planet. The impact of our choice to strive for authenticity reaches further than just those that we see, like the butterfly effect. Since we are in the process of choosing the new leadership of the country, hopefully the potential leaders of our nation can muster up a semblance of authentic conscious leadership. If not, there are always the nominees, finalists and winners of the Conscious Companies Awards who can stand as a lighthouse. Either way, we’ll add it to the win column.
Photo credit: (Ayanda Maphosa, M&G)