Authenticity and Accountability in Networks

Authenticity is the foundation of accountability in networks. If we engage with pretence nothing is sure. By challenging ourselves and others to be authentic we have something to hold ourselves to account against when we interact in networks.

Accountability demands Authenticity

I recently saw this quote from Marc Mathieu, a senior marketer at Unilever, about marketing and it highlighted for me how much of our communication is changing in a world where we are surrounded by connected networks:

Marketing used to be about creating a myth and telling it. Now it’s about funding a truth and sharing it. – Marc Mathieu

Whether you are a leader, a marketer or an individual, the challenge is to share your authentic story and engage others. The authenticity and the humanity is what engages because it is true. We doubt the perfect and the mythical.

Networks have the capacity to unravel created myths and surface the contrary reality. The social movements that campaign against many organisations are seeking to make more widely known the holes in their myths. This is a process of the community through its networks holding the organisations to account for their lack of authenticity.  The movement will succeed or fail to the extent it can more authentically engage people.

Communication demands Authenticity

Communication and engagement built on pretence has foundations of sand. The same applies if we reiterate the opinions of others without any reflection as to their authenticity. If we don’t care to understand the facts and are happy to settle for spin or opinion, then we are comfortable with make believe and deceit is not far away.

No manager would seriously argue to run an organisation on this basis. Yet many engage in corporate speak, spin and massaging the facts in an effort to influence, market and improve their position. While this may gain short term influence, in the medium term it will have a devastating impact on authority when the wider network unravels the myth.  When leadership and influence in a network relies on your authority, it is wiser to build on surer foundations.

Authenticity is the heart of accountability.

Accountability is best when it is personal and when it is founded in an agreed context.  A connection to an authentic personal position brings accountability back to the individual in the network. There is no arguing later that you were mislead or that the facts have changed if the decision is authentically yours.

You will be held to account for what you say in the network era.  It is far better to make those views reflect the authentic you.  

This post is the third in a five part series on managing accountability in the network era. The other posts deal with:

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