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Authentic Leadership Might Be the Single Most Important Factor for Agility

For an organization, the cornerstone of adaptability is to develop decentralized and autonomous teams. For such teams to emerge, there has to be (among others) trust and empowerment so that the decision-making is placed as close as possible to the source and to the effect of change.

As it happens, the effectiveness of a leader to create, develop and lead such teams is directly related to the values and skills of authentic leadership.

« Authentic leadership is way more than just "being yourself »

Many people hold the oversimplified notion that being an authentic leader is mostly about being yourself, saying what you think and doing what you say. Well, I'm sure you can easily think about leaders who fit this description and yet do not succeed to create trust and honest relationships. Obviously, there is more to it.

To better understand authentic leadership behaviors in real life, I suggest you watch this 6-minute video of the story of Glenn Maul.

Story highlights:​

  1. Facing a crisis situation, Glenn shows courage when he makes a tough decision that will put himself in a tough spot

  2. Glenn gets to lead a team who has no respect for him at the beginning. Instead of confronting or blaming his team, he understands their point of view, doesn’t judge them, and gains their respect by putting himself on the line for the team’s success

  3. Glenn opens himself to his team, showing vulnerability, which earns him the team’s trust

  4. In the end, Glenn, the team, and the company are better of.

In this story we discover four key skills of an authentic leader, and their associated behaviors.

  • Self-awareness

  • Empathy

  • Courage, including the courage to show vulnerability

  • Selflessness (which is more a value than a skill)

Why is authentic leadership so important for Agility?

Some leadership styles are more supportive to agility than others. For example, servant-leadership, transformational leadership and transversal management come to mind. Authentic leaderships skills and value, such as salf-awareness and managerial courage, act as a foundation for these more elaborate styles of leadership. In other words, you simply can't become a servant- or transformational leader without becoming first an authentic leader.

Can authentic leadership be learned?

It is true that personality plays a role, but the good news is that, essentially, authentic leadership can be learned. As usual, beyond the basic concepts, the best way to learn it is to practice it. Techniques that can help develop authentic leadership include mindfulness, powerful questions and trying management hacks such as the Jester (which I describe here). Challenge yourself by trying new practices!

Bruno Collet advises and coaches leaders to develop the individual and organizational capability to anticipate and react to changes better and faster. In one word: Agility. His approach relies on action-learning with concrete practices, skills and behaviors. Bruno Collet executed top-level missions with several organizations internationally. He is also a recognized speaker, author and is accredited ICAgile instructor. Bruno Collet holds an MBA, MSc., as well as several certifications such as PMP, PMI-ACP, ICP-LEA (Leading with Agility), ICP-ORG (Adaptive Organization), ICP-ENT (Enterprise Coaching) and ICP-AHR (Agile Human Resources).




Great sentiments Bruno! The most important foundation on which to be an authentic leader is grasping this statement and make it a guiding principle: "Authentic leadership is way more than just "being yourself""."

Even the worst of leaders would suggest they are authentic LOL.



Great article Bruno. Authentic leadership is something we teach and learn daily at Wasabi Coaching & Leadership, and I totally agree with the concepts and ideas you highlight in this. I would probably add the concept of strength-based leadership as an essential ingredient of authentic leadership. With collateral benefit when you not only are aware of your own strengths but you are capable of recognizing and acknowledging those of others in your team.

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