I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to learn how to be a good parent. Overall, i think it’s gone ok. Small people are reasonably pliable if you figure out the reward mechanisms. Although sometimes entirely unfathomable.
As my son has moved from crying and wriggling to walking and talking, i find that my focus shifts: away from the simple aspects of life, like eating and drinking, comforting and cleaning, to the question of how you create a person. Or how you enable a person to create themselves.
In service of this thought, we try to be mindful of giving him a broad diversity of inputs: try to avoid stereotypes, try to show him different role models and people living their lives in different ways. Which i realise sounds terribly new age, but honestly, if you don’t do these things in a deliberate way, how do you know it will be done at all?
When he stares at a wheelchair, trying to figure it out, i try to draw him a picture of a person in a wheelchair so we can make it part of our stories.
To be fair, at two years old his main concern is steam trains, but i feel a responsibility to give him a foundation.
In that spirit, i was pleased to find a new Usborne book on ‘Diversity’, which explores how our differences are rich and beautiful. It’s an explosion of names, colours and different shaped and sized people, which is exactly what i wanted. Indeed, i felt good about the book until i saw that it was printed in the United Arab Emirates, a country with a poor record on human rights and diversity.
It feels crazy, but it’s robbed the authenticity out of the book for me: instead of a celebration of diversity, it now feels like an exploitation of it. Just a commercial offering in the moment.
It’s not logical – i know how publishing works – i know about the international markets of printing, binding, and distribution – but it feels wrong.
And that’s how authenticity works: our roots, it’s a perception, a belief. I don’t know what i expected (printed by a socially responsible collective maybe?) but in this case, i’m left feeling that the medium definitely is at odds with the message.
Authenticity is a central theme of Social Leadership: the roots you put down, the stories that people tell about you. And it’s not just for individuals: Organisations themselves need an authenticity of action in a broader reputation economy.
My reaction, and analysis, may not be logical, but that is almost the point: authenticity of action is judged in the perception, not the intent.