Laertes’ exhortation to his son is at once simple and very complex, and made more so by the rather tedious way in which we, as the audience, are meant to view the prosings of an old man. Yet this oft-repeated phrase encapsulates the central message of authenticity and, in doing so, sets us on a path that is easy to see yet hard to follow. Whether we are talking about leadership or other occupations, the acknowledgement of ‘emotional labour’ (Hochschild, 1983) as a requirement to manage our emotions to someone else’s agenda – to abide by the ‘display rules’ (Ekman, 1973) of a particular situation or role for commercial rather than cultural reasons – immediately raises the issue of authenticity, of the extent to which we can be said to be true to our own self whilst intentionally showing an emotion we do not feel. The potential for ‘multiple emotional roles’ (Wharton and Erickson, 1993) arising from multiple practical selves – boss, colleague, citizen, parent, partner – and for each of these roles to have their own truths, further complicates the situation by adding the potential for internal confl ict as a precursor to external displays. And the need for different kinds of displays – for example, what Wharton and Erickson (1993) refer to as integrative emotions, differentiating emotions, and emotional masking, all of which may be called forth by the professional display rules of the leadership role – and their alignment or otherwise with our natural dispositions can be expected to have a bearing on how stressful it is to perform the necessary displays (Zapf and Holz, 2006) and how convincing they appear. Also problematic is the question of who gets to defi ne what it is to be authentic. Is authenticity an innate quality of the person being described as authentic or something that must be attributed to them by others (Goffee and Jones, 2005)? And if the latter, then what are the properties and consequences – for them and for others – of an ‘authentic performance’ (Bulan, Erickson and Wharton, 1997) and what does this really signify?