Authenticity is a paradox online. Herminia Ibarra’s The Authenticity Paradox in the Harvard Business Review focuses on leadership authenticity. Leadership requires molding behavior and strategy to meet current demand Ibarra says. Ibarra discusses how business authenticity is easy to misunderstand. Don’t confess or share if doing so creates confusion and destroys trust. Don’t seek consensus when strong leadership is expected. Match strategy, context, direction and branding to create a movement others follow, to be authentic.

Online authenticity needs:

  • Movements – Movements require tribes and tribes need movements
  • Organization – Illusion of spontaneity is a CSF (Critical Success Factor)
  • Community – Online starts COLD and warming a website up can sound or feel inauthentic
  • Values – Shared universal values are crucial but can’t ossify or not listen
  • Safety – Consistency and values-based choices over time create trust and a sense of safety


The “new marketing” creates movements customers join. It’s hard to build movements without followers – the web’s CATCH-22. Movements focus on customer emotions, aspirations, and dreams. Great “movement” marketers include Nike, Coca-Cola, and Apple. Jim Stengel’s book, Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies shares “5 Brand Ideals”:

  • Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder, and limitless possibility
  • Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways
  • Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences
  • Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality
  • Impacting Society: Affecting society broadly, including by challenging the status quo and redefining categories

Online authenticity means knowing your “brand ideal.”  


Websites are similar to a Broadway play. Marketing teams set stages and write scripts. Websites are planned spontaneity and defined collaboration. What happens NOW is predictable but not known. Websites need suspension of disbelief as visitors seek mystery, seduction, stories, and beauty. Sites ungrounded in movements will find it difficult to win hearts, minds, and loyalty over time.


Why community forms can be hard to predict as Leadership Lessons From The Dancing Guy illustrate:

Finding and sharing anything (websites, products, brands) requires courage. Every successful online brand creates connection, power, and love. Know the love you create. You aren’t in control. Listen carefully and evolve.

Values Based

Walk Your Talk online. Every communication is an opportunity to reinforce your brand ideals. The golden rule is a good guiding value. Treat people better than you want to be treated and almost everything else takes care of itself.


Safety was the answer difference Google Learned in a recent study. When team members feel safe they take risks, are vulnerable and productivity eclipses average teams. Known and enforced” rules of the road” create safety. The line between censorship and community protection can be hard to find. Most managers know abuse when we read, see or hear it.

In conclusion, websites are defined spontaneity. Online marketing requires collaboration, listening and a willingness to evolve and respond to what is happening now. We defeat the authenticity paradox created by initially cold digital environments with design, copy, images, and room. When our sites are safe, secure and rewarding they grow. When we speak to ourselves about ourselves opportunity is missed.