Friday, 29 October 2010

Great article by Amanda Heath

I found this the other day (published on 21st October 2010) and wanted to share it with you. Amanda has written an excellent article which encapsulates some of the essential qualities of Authentic Leadership.

In summary, Amanda states these as

* Pursuing a genuine purpose with passion and having the courage to stay true to it

* Finding the balance between how much of your true self to display and how much to keep hidden

* Knowing when to switch your focus from yourself to others (with a low ego so that you can genuinely listen)

* Skillful communication

* Creating material value through strong relationships

Here's the on-line address of the article should you want to read the whole thing

My best wishes as always,

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Authentic Leadership and 21st Century Enlightenment

You may not have heard of the 21st Century Enlightenment Project from the U.K.'s Royal Society of Arts. It's a fascinating read and links Authentic Leadership with a humanistic, and some might suggest, even spiritual perspective.

Here's the link to the paper

Let me know what you think. Matthew Taylor, the charismatic CEO of the RSA would also be interested in your thoughts and comments.

My best wishes as always,

Ethical Leadership in Tough Times

I've just read an excellent article by Phil Hayes of the U.K.'s Royal Society of Arts (the RSA). It sums up many of the underpinning philosophies that embody Authentic Leadership.

You can find it here:

I hope it triggers some interesting thoughts for you, as it did for me.

My best wishes as always,

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sustainable Leadership vs Authentic Leadership

People Management magazine in the U.K. recently published an article on Sustainable Leadership and I was struck by its similarities to Authentic Leadership. The crux of the author's argument being that only ethics-based leadership will be sustainable in the longer term

Here's the link to the article

Monday, 31 May 2010

Professionally ethical and morally corrupt?

When I first began my PhD and starting working within the UK military's Royal Air Force, the Group Captain I was working with made it very clear to me that within his representation of Authentic Leadership there is a differentiation between the personal and the professional.

I was only to study professional leadership within the RAF. Naturally I agreed. After all, Leadership, much as it is a personal journey, is most often considered to be a professional role, and it was the perception of that role that I was investigating.

Of course, always curious, I wanted to explore what he meant in more depth.

It transpired that he meant the difference between what he described as professional ethics and personal morals.

Leadership and management within the military (and I expect that this is true within all of the UK's armed forces, not just the RAF) is a highly stressful and pressurised role in an equally stressful environment, and very often marriages bear the brunt of that pressure. Before a marriage breaks down irrevocably, or perhaps as a way of coping within a marriage that hasn't yet broken down irrevocably, some service men and women, like men and women from all other walks of life, may look outside their marriage for comfort. Within my PhD, I was only to focus on professional ethics and not on personal ones.

As leaders are always expected to be role models, is it possible, I wondered to be both professionally ethical and morally corrupt at the same time? Or is this a value judgement that is severely limiting?

You will have to think about that particular dilema for yourself as I am not about to answer it for you (I couldn't - you need to make up your own mind, baed on your own beliefs and values)

What I can say though is that the Group Commander's comment links to the difference between the way that ethics is perceived in the military in the UK compared to the US where it is very different.

The US military sees ethics as a part of someone’s CHARACTER. e.g. are they honest and trustworthy in what they do? (and therefore, will they do the right thing?) In contrast, the UK military sees ethics as higher moral reasoning, i.e. as the ETHICAL CAPACITY to think through ethical dilemas and therefore to do the right thing.

An interesting insight and not yet something that is really being debated within the UK military, even though ethics are becoming very much debated at the highest levels in all 3 UK armed forces.

I think I can confidently predict that the integrity and transparency of leadership decision-making within the UK's 3 military services will be on the agenda at the highest levels for some time to come.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Whose Ethics?

I have recently been touring the country delivering introductory workshops on Authentic Leadership to a number of branches of the UK's CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development). I've met some great people, and had some fascinating discussions!

One of the questions that keeps coming up is, “If Authentic leadership is majorly concerned with ethics, whose ethics are they?”

What a great question! What so we mean by ethics? (or, perhaps to phrase it slightly differently, an ethical framework), and are ethics personal or professional, individual or collective?

I'm going to give you my personal answer from my own perspective, based on the research that I have done so far. For me, at this moment in time, this is a bit of a work-in-progress answer, so we may find that my thoughts on the subject change over future years and as I get nearer to the end of my PhD and my Viva. (It's bound to be one of the questions that I get asked if I don't make my thinking and my rationale absolutely crystal clear in my thesis, so now is as good a time to be thinking about it as any!)

Rodney Smith, from the Department of Government Relations, University of Sydney, maintains that ethics are collective not personal. He's suggesting that they are socially constructed frameworks that we choose to operate within. In fact, he goes further, suggesting that ethics are formal collective mechanisms of behaviour which are transparent codes of conduct based on democracy and discussion, which are collectively agreed.

He doesn't say that they are always written down, historically, some cultures have had speech, but lacked a written, recorded language. So what he's suggesting I think is that our own personal and professional ethical frameworks are shaped by, and exists within, a collective, socially constructed one.

We therefore need to differentiate between the collective and the personal when talking about ethics. Although they are often used interchangeably, I think that some writers use the word ethics when they mean the collective framework, and morals when they mean our individual position within that framework.

However leadership is inherently personal; Authentic Leadership even more so, so where does that leave us?

My position today then, in so far as my thinking has developed, in answer to the question, "Whose ethics?" is to say that ethics are the collectively and culturally agreed rules of behaviour which govern what is deemed as socially and culturally acceptable. And our morals are where we personally position ourselves within that framework.

I hope that helps ........... you don't need to agree with me by the way!

My best wishes as always,
Fiona x

Thursday, 1 April 2010

If you want to know more .................

Of course I'm not the only person working in the field of Authentic Leadership! There are quite a few of us actually, and we even have a global community via LinkedIn. So I thought that I would just recommend some of the best people and organizations to you; it's up to you then if you want to contact them and find out more so you know who is going to best be able to support you on your own journey towards AL. This is me. Our Authentic Leadership Programme is called 3 Peaks as it integrates together the 3 critical areas of Cognitive Fitness, Operational Fitness and Physical Fitness. It's a programme designed for business leaders, so if your journey is a more personal one for you at the moment, then possibly one of the other organizations would suit you better. has been founded out of Vancouver by a wonderful lady called Tana Heminsley. She has also founded the global community which you can find at and Neil is a lovely man who works globally with individuals and businesses to help them identify their true purpose is owned and run by Judith Bell out of Novato, California. It's a lovely site with some valuable resources.

and finally Richard Olivier is a classically trained actor who uses the plays of William Shakespeare to teach lessons in leadership. His workshops are geat fun and his site contains many short video clips so you can see how he works.

I hope that this short summary is useful to you and assists you on your own authentic leadership journey

My best wishes as always,

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Only 33% of UK employees trust their senior managers

This is the (almost shocking) finding from the UK's Chartered Institute of Personel & Development. It means of course that 66% of UK employees DON'T trust their senior managers.

The report suggests that UK employees don't trust their senior managers to:

a) tell them the truth
b) keep them informed, or
c) do what's best for the employees rather than what's best for the organization or for the manager themselves

As TRUST is one of the positive leadership outcomes that is achieved by Authentic Leaders, it's understandable why I am beginning to see job adverts in the UK press actually asking for 'authentic' leaders.

But my question (and my concern) is, do employers actually know what they're asking for if they say that they want an authentic leader AND MOREOVER, how on earth are they going to measure it?!

If the quality of someone's leadership is best defined through the perception of their followers, how is an interviewer going to identify that within the recruitment process? Are we going to have interviews informed by 360 degree feedback appraisals? I don't think so! (Although I do know of quite a few candidates who take their Thinking Styles feedback report to interviews to show recuiters the strength and quality of their thinking, so who knows!)

To download a full copy of the report and it's findings follow this hyperlink:

If you are interested in more information about what Authentic Leadership is and the PhD research that I am conducting into it, please have a look at the Resources page on the Cognitive Fitness website

My own personal opinion is that what organizations have identified is what the literature has already said about authentic leadership, which is that interventions made by Authentic Leaders are more favourably received by followers; meaning that positive outcomes such as trust, optimism and the quality of relationships are all magnified by the lens of Authentic Leadership. Outcomes are more influential and their resultant impact is increased; Authentic Leadership is therefore a ‘leadership multiplier’ (Chan et al. 2005)

If organizations really do want to employ Authentic Leaders they need to be very clear about what that means and why they would want to do that; Authentic Leaders are very much their own people, - they have their own recognizable voices and are not 'yes men' (or, for that matter, women). If they believe that something is ethically wrong, not only will they say so, they will actively oppose it.

As recent research has also identified that organizations led ethically out-perform those organizations which are not, perhaps it it these outstanding results that organizations want to achieve rather than Authentic Leadership per se ............

........... or perhaps I'm just being cynical? For the sake of our global community and for our planet, I hope not.

My best wishes as always,

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Thank you Janet from Sweden!

I recently had an email from a psychology student in Sweden asking about the published 'gurus' in the field of Authentic Leadership research and any questionnaires which currently exist to measure AL.

Bruce Avolio is one of the most well published academic authors on the subject, whilst Bill George is probably the most well known practitioner with his book, True North.

Goffee & Jones with their book and Harvard Business Review article both entitled, "Why should anyone be Led by You?" straddle both theory and practice. They have a very easy writing style and are well worth a read.

As far as I am aware there isn't a commercially available 360 instrument that measures AL, certainly not within the UK anyway. This of course is one of the reasons that I am currently developing one myself within my PhD!

Walumbwa and colleagues (which includes Avolio) have developed a 360 in the US which they very generously make available for research purposes to bona-fide students, however I'm not aware of it being accompanied by a business-focused feedback report or any specific development activities.

I will post more about my own PhD research into AL in due course!

Walton & Weybridge CIPD event - part 2

So what's the difference then between Authentic Leadership and 'pseudo' Authentic Leadership? And why should anyone care?

Well, for those of you have studied, and remember, your leadership theory, of all the significant leadership theories that exist, Bass’ Transformational Leadership theory best links the concepts of leadership and authenticity in that it emphasizes the role that authenticity and morality play in the way that leaders transform organizations and lead their followers to higher levels of performance.

Bass suggests that authentic transformational leadership is particularly grounded in a leader's deeply held personal moral convictions and he contrasts this with pseudo-transformational leadership where such moral character is lacking and a leader only 'pretends' to hold certain moral convictions because they want to achieve the benefits that being a transformational leader can give them. The emphasis here with Bass as you will probably have noticed, is on the TRANSFORMATIONAL aspects of leadership rather than on AUTHENTICITY of the leader per se.

Bass & Steidlmeier in their 1999 paper, Ethics, character and authentic transformational leadership behaviour. (in) The Leadership Quarterly, 10, pp.181-217 make the point that the literature surrounding Transformational leadership has been consistently linked with historical literature on virtue and morality, such as those exemplified in the writings surrounding Confucian and Socratic philosophies. Therefore the moral character exemplified by authentic leaders is consistent with the Transformational leadership model.

However, as I will explore in future blog entries, the concept of Authentic Leadership goes beyond that of merely being transformational in Bass’ terms.

My best wishes as always,
Fiona x

Walton & Weybridge CIPD event - part 1

Last week I did a short evening workshop event in Surrey for one of the UK branches of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development.

WoW! What a wonderful and friendly branch! In fact, I would go so far as to say that it's the friendliest CIPD branch that I've ever been to, and that's all down to the leadership and combined personalities of the committee. Of course, as so often happens within the field of leadership, their friendly and professional approach is mirrored by their 'followers'; those members who travelled from far and wide to join us.

Thank you everyone for making the evening so enjoyable and the debates so lively!

A couple of really useful and interesting things that emerged from the debate were that people want some definitions of what 'Authentic' Leadership IS and what 'Authentic' Leaders DO (verses Charismatic Leaders or Servant Leaders for example)so here is my definition of what an Authentic Leader actuall IS:

“Someone who is both psychologically self-aware and philosophically ethically sound”

Now, I know that sounds slightly academic,- well, as I'm doing PhD in Authentic Leadership I guess that would fit! What I will do, now that my life is back on a more even keel and I've resumed my studies, is pick out some of the most relevant parts of both the academic writing on AL and also from the pragmatic, practitioner led stuff and post it up here for you in a way that I hope will be useful.

In the next post I will write more about one of the other interesting debates that we had last week about the difference between 'authentic' leadership and 'pseudo-authentic' leadership.........

My best wishes as always,
Fiona x