Use Real Authenticity to Establish Fake Authenticity: Sarah Palin shows organizations how

by cv harquail on October 2, 2008

Sarah book cover Almost anywhere we look at this election season there’s something to learn about authenticity.  This is especially true when we’re able to draw analogies between individuals and organizations. Watching the ways that individuals work to present themselves as authentic , we can learn tactics that organizations can use.

Sarah Palin has been very effective at "extending" her authenticity. She has expertly used her real authenticity — the authenticity we can verify , to create the perception that she is authentic anywhere /anyway she claims.  To extend her authenticity, Palin has simultaneously  (1) created a fake "reality" about who she is, and (2) mixed this fake reality with the truth , (3) to make an attractive big picture of who she will be as a leader. Palin has tapped into our "hunger for the real," and so can your organization.

Why we look for signs of Authenticity

People are hungry for authentic leaders and authentic organizations . We want leaders and organizations that have the expertise to solve difficult problems, that listen to us, and that we can trust. Assessing an organization’s authenticity or a candidate’s authenticity is one way to gauge how much we should trust them .

Where Palin is Authentic

SarahVogue1 Sarah Palin comes atcha with a lot of personality. She’s got an identifiable, positive life story . She demonstrates her ambition, her commitment, and her confidence with her every move. Even when you push aside the way that her candidacy taps into our hopes about transcending sexism, our vision of balancing work and family, and our vision of women holding our nation’s highest offices, Palin looks a lot "like" what we want in a leader.

In many different domains, Palin comes across as authentic. She’s an Alaskan who knows how to hunt and fish. Palin’s not only a working mom , Palin’s a hockey mom who’s chauffeured her kids from school to hockey practice. As a small business owner along with her husband, she wants lower business taxes. Palin has a gay friend, so she’s tolerant . She links her claims about who she is to the actions she has taken.

Where Palin Needs to Convince Us She’s Authentic

palin kissenger

The challenge for Palin comes when she makes claims about the future – – claims about who she will be as a vice president. When Palin claims that her experience in one area demonstrates how she’ll act in the future in that same area , she seems authentic. It makes sense to expect that the kind of mom she is now demonstrates the kind of mom she’ll be in the future.

But what does Palin as a mom demonstrate about her policies about conflict in the Middle East?   

Palin (like many politicians) claims that she will be able to manage all kinds of new responsibility, based on what she has already done in unrelated areas. In many cases, the relationship between her actual experience and what she will need to be an expert in is more like a "bridge to nowhere."  The link between the cited experience and the promised behavior is imaginary.

An extreme example of an imaginary link is Palin’s claim that, because you can see Russia from some parts of Alaska, she’s got foreign policy experience. Most everyone sees through this claim. However, many of Palin’s claims look more real than they really are . They have the appearance of authenticity without actually being authentic.

So, what’s Palin doing to convince us that her foreign policy expertise is as authentic as her love for hunting & fishing?

Palin is using Real Authenticity to establish Fake Authenticity.

Fake Authenticity?  Fake authenticity , otherwise known as verisimilitude, is the appearance of authenticity without the substance of authenticity. It’s a condition that is similar to truth, but actually not truth. Fake authenticity is when it "looks like" claims and actions align when they actually don’t.

Establishing Fake Authenticity has two steps:

    Step 1: Create a fake "reality"

    Step 2: Mix this fake reality with the truth

Both steps, working together, help to extinguish doubts about authenticity while enhancing the perception of authenticity.

Organizations can mimic these tactics, to encourage stakeholders to think of them as authentic – and credible- in areas where they have expertise and areas where they don’t.

Want to know more specifics about using Real Authenticity to establish Fake Authenticity?

Check my next posts:  3 4 Ways Palin Creates a "Fake" Reality , and  Mixing Fake and Real, the Palin Way .

(See? I said there was a lot to learn about authenticity…..)

Photos: Vogue Magazine  &  Everett Bogue; Photos: Getty Images

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