Authentic Leadership: It Needs a Makeover

confidence self leadership

Or maybe it needs an upgrade.

Yes, I'm taking on the much loved approach of Authentic Leadership.

First some context. 

Authentic Leadership was first coined in 2003 by Harvard Business Professor Bill George (who wrote a book about it) - so way to take on the big academia guns, Belle! 

Authentic Leadership is defined as being honest, transparent, direct, and caring. All great leadership qualities, don't get me wrong.

Without context, Authentic Leadership can come across as a power trip: "this is who I am, this is my style, this is my vision, and you will follow."

And yes, once again - important to know who you are, what your vision is, and be able to lead.

What I feel is missing from being effective in this space is "Adaptive".

I first posed the term "Adaptive Authenticity" to my change skills lecturer, Karen as a better way to lead than just with pure authenticity.

i.e. -  You know who you are, and you recognize diversity in those you lead both at a macro and micro level, and can flex your leadership language to affect change.

The adaptive part, I feel, is needed - especially if you are wishing to communicate effectively, and create change.

Adaptive Authenticity allows you to navigate change, flex your communication style, and ultimately, grow as a leader where you need to. It is not about giving up who you are at your core - it is about ensuring you do not stagnate and get stuck with old thought patterns or old beliefs that no longer serve the greater good.


Here's a few tips on how to get started with adaptive authenticity.

1. Know your leadership language. 

This is your values, your talents & strengths & your areas of expertise, plus your own cultural makeup - gender, generation, heritage, beliefs & life experience that will ultimately colour how you see the world and have informed your leadership to this point in time.

2. Know your 4 B's

  • Your Biases
  • Your Boundaries
  • Your Balconies
  • Your Basement

These 4B's filter your world.  At their best (boundaries and balconies) they project who you are and protect who you are while serving others. When they are not so great, biases can create stinking thinking, and you can operate from more of a basement level.

Understanding your 4'Bs and actively working to uncover unconscious ones will help you to broaden your perspective and flex that leadership language for better outcomes.

3. Utilise profiling tools effectively

As an expert clifton strengthsfinder coach, I love the strengths finder tool to help language talents for people. It helps us to language who we are, and understand that themes of talent are neutral - it's all in how we "walk our talk" so to speak.

Ahead of their new book, Culture Shock, Gallup recently reported that one in four employees feel their organization strongly cares about their well being.  An easy way to increase this is through how you communicate with those you lead.


4. Create Rules of Engagement

Whether it is with your family, your friends, or your coworkers, be clear on how you will communicate and understand your audience. If you are dealing with someone who is more "fact-based", communicate in that way. If you have someone who needs more detail, be prepared to go in with more detail. And, if you are completely misaligned with your values, be prepared to make appropriate decisions.  There is no point in living a lie for yourself or for someone else.


5. Conduct a regular self examination - what do you stand for, anyway?

If your initial response is "I know who I am", great - and I would challenge you to check in and self examine to see if any of your values or definitions have changed, or are up for editing. You can do this at your own pace with my latest book.


Want more? Here's a good starting point...

To explore the impact of your words, and how adaptive authenticity can help you lead yourself or others more effectively, you may even wish to start with my free 3 part workshop which you can find here or, if you are feeling bold, reach out to discuss how you can join the ranks of my consulting clients in creating a positive change in how you lead.


PS I love taking on a thought leader challenge, so stay tuned for why I feel Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs could use a makeover to help us lead ourselves and others better.





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