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Authentic Leadership

How much of your whole self-do you bring to work? How authentic are you? How authentic are the leaders that you work with?

These are the questions that I ask on a daily basis to help my coachees explore the authenticity of their #leadership style and determine if they wish to make any changes? I acknowledge and appreciate the values/impact #coaching has had on my journey of self-discovery and made me the kind of leader that I wanted to be.

Myself and my colleagues at #TheActivationProject, collaborate with #leaders from a wide range of organisations, both large and small, within the Sport & Physical Activity sector across England and Wales. The challenges for leaders in smaller organisations can be tough, because they tend to bear the responsibility to oversee multiple functions that are required to transition seamlessly between strategic issues to managing daily operational issues, often within the span of a single day.


Based on my personal experience, I learnt the hard way having been a #leader for 15 years, managing a variety of successful teams across various retail organisations, why being #authenticallyyourself is so critical. I thought keeping my private life very separate from my work life was ‘the right thing’ to do. However, it back fired when I decided to keep it a secret from colleagues, that we were planning to adopt 3 children. Due to the nature of the adoption process, I was only able to tell my work colleagues approximately about 4 weeks before my upcoming adoption leave. Upon hearing my news, people expressed their surprise and amazement. However, a few people remarked, half-jokingly, what else I might be withholding from them, considering I had kept it as a secret until then. These comments really hit home and got me thinking. Upon returning from my leave, I was certain that I needed and wanted to be a more authentic leader, as I needed to bring my whole self to work. It was easier than I thought it would be! My colleagues observed a positive change in me, and I discovered being myself at work became much easier. This was rather really challenging for me as I had recently become a new Mum. A remarkable and fantastic coach helped me embrace my true self.


Dial forward 12 years, and I am now a #coach myself. I often coach individuals who express their different selves in various aspects of their lives. During our sessions, I take the time to explore the reasons behind this approach, identify what is holding them back from being their true selves . Many individuals express how exhausting this can be to manage. #Leadership coaching can help you explore and expose your #authenticself.


Much has been written and researched about #authentic #leadership. Here are a few articles that resonated with me. Recently, McKinsey in May 2023 wrote an article called the ‘New leadership for a new era of thinking organisations – where they talk about the 5 shifts required for sustainable growth for organisations to outperform, in this era of disruption’. They argue that we should be ‘moving from an era of #motivational leaders to #networked leadership teams that steer the organisations’ – it is worth a read. However, I wanted to focus on one of the shifts they talk about – ‘How we show up? The need to shift from being professional, meeting expectations, with the mindset of conformity to being humans, being our whole best selves and with a mindset of authenticity.’


‘Showing up as humans with the courage to be, and to be seen as, their whole best, authentic selves. This can be challenging to do as requires you to show your vulnerabilities and move beyond task – drive transactional relationships by taking time to get to know each other at a human level.’


Harvard Business Review shows that a majority of employees believe authenticity in the workplace leads to benefits such as:

· Better relationships with colleagues

· Higher levels of trust

· Greater productivity

· A more positive working environment

‘They believe that there are 5 traits of an #authentic leader based the legendary explorer Ernest Shackleton. Authentic leadership is a leadership style exhibited by individuals who have high standards of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, and make decisions based on principle rather than short-term success. They use their inner compasses to guide their daily actions, which enables them to earn the trust of their employees, peers, and shareholders—creating approachable work environments and boosting team performance. They are;

1. Committed to bettering themselves

2. They cultivate self-awareness

3. They’re disciplined

4. They’re mission driven

5. They inspire Faith’

*Harvard Business School online – updated on 24 Jan 2023 – Matt Gavin.

Dr Josh Axe on 18 May 2022, references Bill George, another Harvard Business School professor who back in May 2008, calls out common traits that Authentic Leaders have:

· well-versed in the four domains of Emotional Intelligence

· take ownership of their responsibilities

· remain committed to a long-term vision

· have humility – they are always willing to listen, learn, and serve others.

· focused on being a person who acts with ethics, values, and integrity

· genuinely kind and caring

· they are well-known for keeping their word, never hiding the truth from others, and preventing gossip


In today's world of Equality, Dversity and Inclusion (#EDI), bringing your whole self to work is vital. We all should welcome people’s differences and thinking how it might evolve your understanding, thoughts and views.


It is very important to embrace the diversity of individuals, both in the personal space and at workplace and consider how it can enhance our perspectives and beliefs.

Links to articles

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