Personal Finance

How to spot fake leaders in era of spin doctors



  • The American election this year is best known as the gigantic clash between current President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.
  • But America utilises a very formal election format.

As humans, we crave authenticity. We disdain fake friends. We abhor shifty family members. We wish all our family would be authentic. We despise phoney partners. We want real relationships. We find bogus colleagues repugnant. We desire reliable workmates.

Likewise, we loathe pandering leaders. We crave honest, transparent, and humble leaders. Our subconscious brains built up numerous techniques over thousands of generations for assessing another person’s perceived truthfulness, authenticity, and realness during interpersonal dialogue.

However, in the modern world, when messages can be crafted by spin masters and marketing specialists and we must form opinions about someone we may never even meet in person. Our brains find it difficult to narrow in on a more accurate picture of authenticity. But even though our brain cannot be entirely sure of the authenticity of someone we barely know or have never met, we still must proceed and make decisions based off imperfect information that we do indeed possess.

As an example, we may hold two job offers, one from Kenya Commercial Bank and one from Equity Bank. A key determinant in our decision process, in addition to salary and benefits, would include our perceptions about the respective CEOs. Which the leader do we find authentic and believe their intentions for the organisation and its employees?

Researcher Cem Kahya found manager genuineness as a key component of positive leader-member exchange in organisations. Employees make critical career decisions based on how authentic and genuine are their supervisors, managers, and executives.

Brandice Canes-Wrone, Michael Herron, and Kenneth Shotts interestingly researched the likelihood that executives or politicians will act in the public interest of their constituents, whether stakeholders or voters. An executive or politician’s popularity often enables them to act against the interests of those who put them in power.

Often these are politicians who only undertake projects for the benefit of the public good during election years and then disappear the rest of their time in office.

The research found three key factors that influence whether a leader acts with authenticity and in the public interest. First, does the executive have high-quality colleagues that could easily replace him or her in the job or does a politician have a high-quality challenger to the post. Having credible challengers to one’s authority makes someone more likely to perform faithfully. Second, if the executive or politician holds high competency themselves in getting work done, then they are more likely to act in the common good. Third, if the stakeholders, shareholders, or board are likely to find out the consequences of an executive’s policy decisions, then that manager is more likely to act in their interests.

Politicians, on the other hand, are more likely to act on behalf of their constituents if their voters have a high probability of learning the consequences of their policy decisions before an upcoming election.

Kenya’s next General Election will take place in 2022. Voters will ascertain their perceptions of pandering versus authenticity of the president, governors, senators, MPs, women’s representatives, and MCAs. In comparison, the United States’ next general election will take place across the Atlantic Ocean on November 3. Millions of voters will formulate their perceptions and opinions about the truthfulness, authenticity, and realness perceptions of their candidates.


The American election this year is best known as the gigantic clash between current President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. But America utilises a very formal election format.


The Business Daily in partnership with USIU-Africa and the US Embassy in Nairobi will hold an open colloquium for those interested in learning about the nuances of the American electoral process. Topics for the October 29, 2pm colloquium will include the American presidential electoral process, history of black citizens in American elections, Kenyan-Americans in this year’s election, and a real absentee ballot with an audience mock vote.

The Zoom meeting ID is 954 8064 9836 with the password Election20 for those interested in joining the free event.

Let us pause and think about the authenticity of our workplace leaders and political leaders in Kenya. How will authenticity perceptions play out in the next Kenyan General Election? How might we predict results in the American general election given the enormous media attention to the candidates’ authenticity?

Dr Scott may be reached on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor