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Clever marketing and crafty messaging can go a long way to getting customers to look at your product or employees to consider working for you but, ultimately, only real human value and meaning will keep those customers coming back. Pixabay

This month, the Social Capital team launched an exciting new interactive forum for exploring the ideas and perspectives of the CEOs we honor for their commitment to realizing the value of humanity in every aspect of their business. Our first official Social Capital Discussion Panel focuses on one of the seminal traits of Social Capital leaders – authenticity. And we have hosted three incredible leaders who are shining examples of that to discuss authenticity as a leadership quality: Lorna Borenstein, founder and CEO of Grokker; Robert Glazer, founder and chairman of the board of Accelerated Partners; and Bob Chapman, CEO of Barry-Wehmiller.

“The difference between marketing and meaning is real authenticity. Some companies don’t care if the message they market actually coincides with their true essence. And the bottom line is, marketing without such sincerity is just a blatant effort to sell you. But the most dynamic and exciting companies are realizing they need to honestly tell you who they are, and customers are not just responding but beginning to demand it!”

We wrote those words almost two years ago, around the time we began Social Capital, and they ring truer and more important today than they ever have before.

Clever marketing and crafty messaging can go a long way to getting customers to look at your product or employees to consider working for you but, ultimately, only real human value and meaning will keep those customers coming back and those employees giving their all for you.

The companies we have honored in the past and those amazing leaders we have brought together this month for our first official Social Capital Discussion Panel not only understand and lead their companies this way, but they have delivered the proof from their experiences that this is the best way of doing business, so that you not only can believe them but can also emulate their authenticity – and their success.

Here are some of the highlights of this amazing panel:

Opening the discussion, Robert Glazer said, “I much prefer the word ‘authentic’ to ‘integrity.’” His point was that what you think, do and say are all alike, but people are wanting to say the “right thing” rather than what they really mean. “So that’s something I’ve always tried to work on, even when it’s not necessarily what people want to hear. And sometimes it can be uncomfortable, too.”

Taking that theme further, Lorna Borenstein observed, “I think it is a very tricky time for leaders, particularly public company CEOs, to live their values. My belief is you can’t live your values without being prepared to live the consequences of that.”

She made a strong case for the importance of demonstrating authenticity in how the business’s norms and beliefs are rewarded and punished, especially as “our employees have very refined bullshit detectors.”

Bob Chapman took the discussion in another direction as well as adding an even more provocative dimension to it when he said, “I never use the word ‘authentic’ leadership. I use the word ‘caring.’” His reason? “I believe that business could be a powerful force for good in the world if they simply had the skills and courage to care for the people they had the privilege of leading.” The topic is one he is passionate about, and he elaborated as to how the effect ripples beyond the workplace. In fact, he noted that “95% of the feedback we get is how it affects their marriage and their relationship with their children.”

Bob’s equation does not ignore the need for business success, and he made clear his views on how – and why – economic and human value should be created in harmony.

To Lorna, caring is an abstract, and she made her case for people wanting three things – apart from a living wage (which is what they need): a sense of purpose, a sense of belonging and a sense of balance.

As support for her views, Lorna cited the research her company conducts to create the best solutions for their clients. For Bob, “I learned more about leadership parenting six kids than I did in business school, because parenthood and leadership is identical: it is caring for the people in your span of care.”

All agreed that caring is not synonymous with being nice, and all share their different views on leading that expresses their view of caring, of being authentic.

Robert brought up the need for employees also to be authentic to themselves as he talked about work-life integration. And he shared his nuanced view of what people want, explaining that may differ from what people are saying they want.

Lorna, Bob and Robert’s views on authenticity in leadership and the betterment of others diverge and connect throughout this panel discussion.

Click on the video below to hear the dialogue that goes to the very heart of a different and better view of business and personal success in today’s challenging world.

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