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1 November 2021


Authentic leadership matters

If you think of the most inspirational leader you have ever worked for or known, what was it that they did that drew you to them or inspired you to go the extra mile for them? Perhaps it was the way they made you feel valued, or their ability to develop and communicate their vision, or their authenticity. Whatever it was, there would have been something in their leadership style that you related to and that motivated you to follow them.

Exploring the ability to influence people through your leadership style is a common coaching topic, especially for clients who are new to leadership and keen to understand how they can be their best selves. 

A good place to start such a conversation with a client is with the stakeholder feedback from the people who observe and experience their leadership. A carefully crafted set of questions asked of a sample of their direct reporters, peers and seniors, generates such feedback on leadership strengths and development areas. This can then be shared back in an anonymised feedback session that provides insight as to how the client’s leadership style is currently perceived. This can also be a helpful reality check on how the client thinks they are perceived versus the actuality.

Building on this, I like to ask the client to reflect on what has motivated them in their career to date, who has influenced them, what their values are, what they are like when they are at their best and what their purpose is. We then bring this together into a leadership statement that captures what they want to be known for as they set out to achieve their desired goals. 

Once the client has captured their leadership statement, it can act as a reminder as to how they want to behave as a leader, the strengths they want to leverage, the values they want to play by, and how they can best engage others.

Your leadership style should reflect who you are, so you can be authentic and feel comfortable. If you try and copy someone else's style, that doesn’t build on your strengths and values; it may well feel forced and hard to maintain. It may also probably be less impactful on the people observing you if your style doesn’t appear to chime with the person behind it.

Your leadership style will also need to work in the environment in which you operate. An overly powerful style is unlikely to land well in more collaborative, empathetic organisations, and vice versa. 

To some degree, this explains the need for consideration regarding your cultural fit and shared values when looking at new job opportunities and how well you feel that your leadership style will work in the potential new organisation.

Leadership styles have been challenged in the context of the pandemic recently, as home working and an increasing shift to hybrid working has emerged. This has driven the need for leadership to be more empathetic and flexible in how leaders work and interact with their staff (even more so as staff retention has become a hot topic as markets wake up and people review what they want from a job). The pressure is on for leaders to reach out and engage staff more effectively in an attempt to hold their interest in organisations and their purpose.

Your leadership style may also change as you change roles and grow in experience. It is therefore important that you are self-aware and reflect on how you think your style is developing, and how effectively it works for you.

So, lots to think about in terms of what your leadership style should be, what it is influenced by, and how effectively it is working, thinking that all lends itself to exploration in a coach-led process.

As always if this prompts any questions, please get in touch and I will be happy to answer them.

From the author:

As coaching is not an advice-giving service, these blogs are not written with the intention of proposing solutions to common leadership challenges. Instead, they are thought pieces with the aim of prompting the reader to think more deeply about the topic and reflect on whether it warrants further exploration, with or without a coach.

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