Why Authentic Leadership is More Than Just a Buzzword

Authentic leadership and change initiatives are two hot topics at the moment, particularly when it comes to how a company structures its strategy. However, there are a fair few brands out there that are investing in authentic leadership and change initiatives, but aren't seeing the benefits. In this blog post, I will explain why these two are so important for brands to get right to see real results. 

But first, what do I actually mean by authentic leadership and change initiatives?

Authentic Leadership 

It's important to understand that authentic leadership doesn't just mean that you are a good leader. Over the years, the term 'authentic leader' has grown to encompass authenticity and self-awareness. It seems like today we have more leadership coaches and motivational leadership services than before. In fact, the courses in authentic leadership development at Harvard Business School oversubscribe every year, and you can’t scroll through social media now without multiple quotes on the topic.

This is relevant to businesses because with more startups being acquired by major corporations, it's now crucial to have a leadership style that meets today's demands and thirst for buy-in and authenticity. To achieve this, businesses will often hire a leadership coach to transform a senior team into authentic leaders. 

There are two types of authentic leaders:

  • low self-monitors: these individuals are actually the opposite of authentic and often just say whatever comes to mind
  • high self-monitors: more calculated in how they deliver their insight to ensure it has a positive impact on others

However, this is only half of the equation when you are trying to successfully implement change under truly authentic leaders.

Change initiatives 

According to Harvard Business Review, seven in ten (70%) change initiatives fail. This is a headline stat that you’ve probably read from numerous blog posts with key business statistics. This does't sound so promising when its a core workstream in most strategies. In my experience, the reason for most of these failures is that businesses rush in to change or changes have taken place without previously assessing the impact.

This then results in managers having an abundance of initiatives where they can often lose focus, and become spellbound by all the advice given by various counterparts on what they should try to accomplish and how they should do it. 

When it comes to change initiatives, there are two main types of corporate change: Theory E (economic value/top-down) and Theory O (culture/people). However, companies increasingly try to inherit both strategies simultaneously. When done right, this approach has excellent shareholder return, whilst instantaneously building employee engagement. However, far too many times this doesn’t go to plan and encourages distrust, effectively demolishing Theory O. This is very important when combining with an authentic leadership strategy. 

To quote Gary Hamel, an American management expert:  

“What’s needed is a real-time, socially constructed approach to change, so that the leader’s job isn’t to design a change program but to build a change platform—one that allows anyone to initiate change, recruit confederates, suggest solutions, and launch experiments''. 

Conclusion: the effective authentic change 

To effectively triumph in this space, you must carefully and strategically do the following: discover, define and dive in to the why, what and how of change. Historically, companies wouldn't hire consultants when adopting Theory O, but in my experience, this is fundamentally where it goes wrong.

As Consult experts, we advise implementing the following: 

  • true authentic deep culture inquiries
  • employee change diagnostics
  • organisation behaviour and analysis
  • measurable success
  • tried and tested implementation modules

All of these will help businesses effectively and successfully deliver both authentic and culture driven change for those complex, fast-moving commercial environments.

Remember: “Nobody cares about the colour of a wall unless they have chosen that colour” 

Be sure to check out my blog next month that delves deeper into Theory E and O, and to find out more about how a creative change process can support your business, get in touch with our dedicated Consult team.