Previously I have discussed the merits of AAA leaders (the As being allyship, autonomy and authenticity). But how are we able to be truly authentic leaders? Thinking about leadership in terms of defiance, compliance and authenticity might help.  

Lee and Roberts’ “Coaching for Authentic Leadership” model is based on a presumption that an authentic leader has their character, strengths and ambitions aligned with their organisation’s goals. As a consequence, they are self-aware and so able to have a healthy and secure attachment to those that they lead.  The risk is that if these elements are not aligned, a leader can be pulled into two contrasting directions:

The defiant leader is in danger of being too “self-focused” and so has limited alignment with those that they lead. The likely-hood here is that this leader becomes prone to avoiding attachment to the team, and is unwilling or unable to define common purpose as they are consumed by their own personal ends.

By contrast, a compliant leader is too “other-focused”, and can be at risk of not making decisions. This puts the achievement of desired goals at risk. The compliant leader can become ambivalent to attachment, less able to take the whole group with them and, again, common goals become difficult to achieve.

Thus, the model holds, it is critical to get the balance right, between what a leader wants as an individual and what the needs of a particular group might be. Being aware of one’s self, and, in particular, one’s character, strengths, and personal goals, and the qualities and needs of the rest of the organisation/team become critical.

Interestingly, it’s the management of these conflicting pulls, and a leader’s ability to deal with them on an on-going basis that support authenticity. Done well, the reward is a healthy and secure attachment to the group through which the leader is able to deliver the desired outcome.

I think this is a great way to think about authenticity, and a leadership model really worth reflecting on. Perhaps its only weakness may be that it is only the most thoughtful, self-aware and deliberate (and perhaps authentic) leaders will be able to put it into practice.