Who is the Authentic Leader in you?

Who is the Authentic Leader in you?

MB Leadership, in association with PiR Resourcing, conducted a series of eMasterclasses entitled “What is the one thing you could do differently today to become a more effective Leader?”

In the first of these we explored insights into simple, high impact steps that every Leader could take to use untapped assets of their Authentic Leadership more consciously in the moments that matter.

This synopsis highlights how any Leaders, how every Leader can immediately deliver better results by simply making more astute and active use of the core essence of who they are.

Who is the Authentic Leader in you?

 Authentic Leadership has come of age.

The term has evolved from the latest ‘fad’ in a jaded world of Leadership euphemisms to being widely recognised by today’s Leaders as being the ONLY way to genuinely engage and inspire themselves and those they lead to deliver the outcomes that matter.

But when did you last challenge yourself to explore whether how you lead is truly in step with your core beliefs and how you really want to lead?

Do you even know what values lie at the heart of your Leadership?

We believe that by asking yourself these questions and using some of our Quick Wins, your aspirations will readily become action: your vision will deliver value.

Effective Leadership isn’t easy but these simple techniques will help you to connect with and draw out the Authentic Leader in you. Try it – the results are amazing!

“…being genuinely authentic all the time, no matter what the context, is a real test of how well you know your Self, how comfortable you are with your Self, how confident you are about your Self and your abilities.’

Steve Knight, INSEAD Adjunct Professor of Business Communication

After 30 years’ experience of Leadership as a consultant and coach, I know that very few Leaders really know WHO they are and even less bring the best version of themselves through in HOW they lead. Yet using this great untapped resource more effectively is within every Leader’s grasp… if you just have the courage and the will to try.

What is Authentic Leadership anyway?

You do not have to trawl the internet very hard to find thought-provoking articles published by the world’s leading business schools on the subject of Authentic Leadership.

Many of the precepts for Authentic Leadership link back to the outcome of Daniel Goleman’s leading edge research in the 1990s. His key findings brought focus to the ‘soft’ qualities that, when taken together with the more traditionally recognised qualities, define the extraordinary from the ordinary, and gave rise to the term ‘emotional intelligence’

‘Goleman found that while the qualities traditionally associated with leadership – such as intelligence, toughness, determination, and vision – are required for success, they are insufficient. Truly effective leaders are also distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence’ – Editor, Harvard Business Review 2004

My own Leadership training took place in an era when books by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman were pre-requisite reading. When interviewed in 2001 to mark the 20th anniversary of ‘In Search of Excellence’, Peters said that he wanted – with a passion – to prove ‘how crucial people are to business success, and to release business from the ‘tyranny of the bean counters’.

One of their core tenets, ‘MBWA’ (Management by Wandering Around), highlights how leadership authenticity correlates directly with organisational success. Whilst this resonates as strongly in 2014 as it did nearly 3 decades ago but is infinitely harder to achieve when leading globally fragmented teams that, as a Leader, you rarely see and lead less long.

Both MB Leadership and PiR Resourcing work with people. We work exclusively with people within the Life Sciences industry. We have a unique insight into the impact that Authentic Leadership has within organisations especially those contorted with the agonies of consolidation and the unrelenting need for radical solutions that are so vital for this global industry.

“Three out of four pharmaceutical companies believe their industry is in the midst of a strategic crisis…”

PharmaTimes Jan 13, 2013

Leading in these organisations is unbelievably tough, for sure. Yet, through the work I do with Leaders and their teams to help them use insight into what people need and value to improve performance, I have also seen the extent to which even the most experienced, technically-astute and passionate Leader can overlook simple, readily actionable ways in which to fully leverage the value of their values in what they do and how they do it: whether that is leading themselves, a team or an entire organisation. And they miss golden opportunities as a result.

So, who is the authentic Leader in you?

Well, the simple answer, of course, is you. It is you.

It is the whole of you. It is that eclectic mix of core values, natural abilities, vision, passion … all of those powerful drivers that define the core essence of you and that make you a fabulous Leader.

But we are each of us perfectly imperfect individuals: intertwined with that wonderful inner DNA is a toxic strand of limiting beliefs, erroneous assumptions and wildly misplaced interpretations. Last but by no means least marauding about quite freely (usually at about 4 o’clock in the morning), is our Gremlin. The inner critic that fuels our anxieties and reminds us of our own vulnerabilities.

The good news is that the core essence of each of us is hard-wired in. The more toxic aspects are invariably the result of baggage that we have acquired along life’s journey (although hopefully none of these are so bad as to result in any of us being the Leader masked behind this Executive door).

And the good news here is that, by uncovering and challenging the root of these more unhelpful aspects to us through greater self-awareness, personal development or just greater experience and wisdom, we can make choices that prevent these from getting in the way.

It is this perfectly imperfect combination that is what makes Authentic Leadership tricky!

How do you ensure that it is always the best version of you that shows up in the moment, every moment? Getting the balance right between leading with the heart, directing from the head and keeping your own vulnerabilities under lock is key is challenging.

Why would you even want to try?

The Challenge for a new generation of Leaders: Building trust

In Bill George’s 2003 book, ‘Authentic Leadership:Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value’, he challenges a new generation to reverse the tide of increasingly deep distrust of Leaders to lead authentically. ‘Authentic leaders demonstrate a passion for their purpose, practice their values consistently, and lead with their hearts as well as their heads. They establish long-term, meaningful relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They know who they are.’

As Leaders strive to hone the skills with which to truly lead with greater authenticity and regain the initiative around building trust, there has been an exponential explosion in coaching within the Corporate sector. But coaching is not for everyone. Those who benefit most from coaching are those who want to use this powerful modality to really connect with their full potential rather than those who have this foisted on them or who find that coaching is just not helping them in the way they need. As one client of mine recently told me when he recounted his experiences of working with a coach, ‘if I wanted to become a Zen monk, I was in great hands. But that didn’t help me move points on the FTSE’.

So, if you are one of these ‘new generation’ Leaders who are fully committed to building trust within their teams but who want Quick Wins that impact the bottom line rather than (or maybe in addition to) a longer-range investment in their personal development, what insights will help you?

Quick Wins at your fingertips …

We began this series of eMasterclasses by publishing original Thought Leadership that probed two powerful attributes of Authentic Leadership that we believe lie dormant or worse, are inadvertently suppressed in day-to-day leadership: courage and corporate compassion.

We highlighted a number of Quick Wins that could help any Leader to fully leverage these uniquely powerful virtues:


  • Build awareness of how courage shows up around you, how it affects you and influences outcomes
  • Explore your own values around courage: what does it actually mean for you and what difference does it make in your authenticity as a Leader?
  • Get your Gremlin on board. That inner critic is there for a reason.
  • Read the enduringly valued book: ‘Taming Your Gremlin’ by Rick Carson.


  • Simply notice. Just knowing that someone is listening lifts a person’s burden sufficiently to let their own more positive emotions emerge
  • Empathy vs sympathy: be clear on the difference. It is how you avoid becoming caught by emotional quicksand
  • Handle the hurt . To the extent that you can, take action to handle the hurt.
  • Read Bréne Brown’s book ‘Daring Greatly’… ‘I really liked one of the quotes you used from Bréne Brown, so I actually bought her book at the weekend […] a very good read indeed.’      

Insights from the Leadership front-line

We explored these and other key themes around Authentic Leadership in the eMasterclass. This on-line discussion forum welcomed senior Leaders from the US, UK and Japan.

In a lively peer-to-peer discussion, there was a strong bias in discussions towards how the authenticity of a Leader and their values can come under pressure when communicating and delivering change. Specifically the need for Leaders to demonstrate:

  • Consistency: which invariably draws on the need to have the courage to stand up for your Leadership values and beliefs even when these are personally challenged by the hardships of change
  • A strong moral compass: to ensure that compassion is not lost when delivering difficult messages associated with the inevitable drive for change.

Quick Wins to emerge from this discussion included:

  • Find something in even the toughest of messages that does resonate with your personal code and that you can stand behind with genuine belief
  • Use the power of storytelling to help people connect with the person within you
  • Use your intuition and invest more time in thinking about how any message you may be giving over is going to be heard.

One senior Leader from Japan commented in follow-up correspondence with us after the eMasterclass: ‘…it was very interesting for me to learn that leaders in Western Culture see ‘humility’, ‘consistency’ ‘strong moral compass’ etc. as essential elements of leadership. As you know, these are the keys in Japanese culture as well. The work ‘integrity’ may capture these senses and you can’t develop trust in people surrounding you without this. As Japanese tend to stay longer in one organisation, getting trusted is a result of long efforts and one of the most critical attributes leaders must possess. However, losing trust can happen easily by one single wrongful action or word.’

So, in conclusion … just who is the authentic Leader in you?

We don’t know who the authentic Leader is in you. The key is whether YOU know who that person is and whether this is the person who those you lead see. And it matters. It really matters because, whether it is insight from the front-line of Leadership or the theories espoused by Bill George, Tom Peters et al, the message is clear: improving how you bring your personal authenticity, your ‘Brand You’, through in every strand of your leadership is vital. It is vital for many reasons but none more so than the need to build trust because trust is the crux of success across any performance measure.

Our aim has been to highlight practical steps that help individuals who are passionately committed to being highly effective Leaders. We have striven to illustrate the little ways in which your authentic self can transform how you lead and the results you deliver.

On behalf of the teams at MB Leadership and PiR Resourcing who have brought this original Thought Leadership through to you, I do truly hope that these simple insights do … in some small way… help you bring the brilliance of the authentic Leader in you through in a more effective way.

As the old saying goes:

‘A pseudo Leader always leaves you with a feeling of their greatness, while an authentic Leader always leaves you with a feeling of your greatness.’

Article written by Annalise Cowley

In the next eMasterclass in this series we explored how to engage an empowered team and why the role of engagement is crucial to a Leader’s success. ‘How do you engage an empowered team?’


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