"If you seek authenticity for authenticity's sake you are no longer authentic."--Jean-Paul Sartre

Years ago I was traveling regularly to Asia, and wanted to buy my wife a Cartier tank watch, a style that was very popular at the time. I visited a reputable jeweler where most of my partners had been shopping for over 20 years, and found exactly what I was looking for. My wife was ecstatic, and I saved a lot of money over what I would’ve spent here.

One day, it stopped working. Cartier is a highly reputable brand, so I didn’t hesitate to send it to their New York facility for repair. Imagine my stunned surprise when several weeks later they returned it with a note that said it was a reproduction. A fake. I not only bought the watch from an established retailer, but I had the beautiful Cartier box, a written certificate of authenticity and a warranty card. All of it was fake.

When authenticity is hijacked, we are not only frustrated, but a bit of anger seeps into our emotional cauldron. We all feel that same pit in our stomach when something we expect to be real isn't.

Let's turn the table on ourselves. When someone questions our authenticity, do we get a little defensive? “What do you mean I’m not authentic? It’s just me, in all of my infinite glory, so how is it I'm not authentic?” When we witness someone who is not authentic, we are usually amazed that he or she doesn’t recognize what everyone else sees, aren’t we?

If authenticity is readily recognizable in someone else, do we see it in ourselves so easily? Are there minimum standards that assure us of authenticity? Can we acquire those characteristics or are we only born with them? If we have some of them, can we make conscious improvements?

If we are examining our own authenticity, honesty must be at the top of the list. If you aren't honest, with yourself and others, you have little chance of being perceived as authentic because honesty is at the root of how genuine we appear to others. While you may be able to get away with the occasional white lie, over time the truth will prevail and you will be judged accordingly.

Emotional integrity is an integral component of honesty, and will flow uninterruptedly like a river when it is genuine. Yes, tears are probably may be our most powerful weapon in this regard, but authenticity covers the entire range of emotions. Your emotional reactions must be real and reflect your full engagement in that particular moment. People will doubt your authenticity if you’re smiling when others are crying, or mocking when others are teary-eyed. If your emotions match the moment and remain unguarded across the full range of those emotions, people will recognize your authenticity.

Emotional integrity also means that you’re comfortable with yourself. You may have come from humble beginnings ... or maybe you were born with a silver spoon in your cradle. Most importantly, you’re comfortable with your identity, and equally outspoken about your successes and shortcomings. You don’t try to hide your failures and are willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly moments that celebrate your humanity.

You need to be passionate about something … and let it blossom across all of your interactions. Be enthusiastic. Be outspoken about it. Take a position. Right or wrong, you can’t be indifferent and you must speak up about what’s important to you. You must believe in something that is both important and valuable, and be willing to follow and promote that passion without respite or reflection.

Humility is a kissing cousin that belongs somewhere on this family tree. In fact, I'm not sure you can be authentic without this quality. In my earlier series about the Cornerstones of Leadership, I wrote that "humility makes it safe for you to admit your mistakes. People don’t expect you to be perfect. Quite the contrary, your willingness to admit your mistakes reflects your humanness, your vulnerability and your similarity to everyone else who makes mistakes every day."

What can you do to enhance your authenticity? One thing that usually works is to share a self-deprecating sense of humor. People will see that you are serious but don't take yourself too seriously. Maybe you also can be a little quicker to point to one of your failures or imperfections to help others avoid those mistakes.

If you're convinced that perception is reality, you may think you can fake it. But, it's awfully hard work to maintain that facade, and you're very unlikely to be successful. In the case of authenticity, reality is what creates the genuine article.

Even if people don't instantly recognize a fake, you won't be able to fake them out for very long. ...

Lary Kirchenbauer, President of Exkalibur Advisors, is an Experienced Executive Coach, Educator, Author & Public Speaker. Lary works closely with senior executives and their middle market businesses at the intersection of leadership, finance and business strategy. “Like” Building a Business on Facebook and benefit from his exclusive newsletter, or visit the Exkalibur web site at www.Exkalibur.com, where you will also find a library of valuable resources.