The cognitive Fitness Consultancy

The cognitive Fitness Consultancy

Building trust Personal integrity in leaders is one of the foundations for building trust Research with RAF officers has helped to define the behaviours associated widi ‘authentic leadership’ – and points to the need for a different emphasis in management and leadership development

o anyone who cares to look, whether they are HR professionals or not, it’s obvious that tíiere is a crisis in leadership. The Ipsos MORI sur- vey on trust in 2011 showed that only 29 per cent of people helieve business leaders can be

trusted to tell the truth, while the most recent DDI Global Leadership Fore- cast has found that UK HR practitioners are sorely disappointed with the people who lead them. Only 18 per cent report high quality leadership within their organisations, identifying a staggering 39 per cent failure rate of external leadership appointments and a 28 per cent failure rate of inter- nal appointments. Boards and the HR function need to do something dif- ferently, and to begin to do it now, if they are to address this crisis within their own organisations.

Fiona Beddoes-Jones is principal psychologist at The Cognitive Fitness Consultancy, and author of the Authentic Leadership 360. Thanks to the business leaders, RAF officers and their colleagues who participated in this research, and to the project sponsor. Group Captain Jupp OBE, of the RAF Leadership Centre

AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP IS NOT a new concept, but several factors have contributed to an upsurge of interest. First, there is the global problem of a perceived lack of ethi- cal decision-making from political and business leaders, which has led to a breakdovra in trust. This is a serious mat- ter because trust is the primary virtue that followers say that they want in their leaders. Recent CIPD research into trust and why trust matters suggests that, in order to build effec- tive organisations, we need leaders who display personal integrity and humanity, who allow followers to get to know them, and who are fundamentally trustworthy. The CIPD report further suggests that organisations, in the private and public sectors alike, now need to redesign their leadership development processes to identify, select and develop this new kind of leader – one who is self-aware, compassionate, honourable, ethical and authentic.

A second, longer-term driver is the essentially western desire for self-fulfilment while being personally authentic as a leader. With Harvard, Cranfield, Ashridge and Henley business schools all offering development programmes in “authentic leadership”, we could be forgiven for thinking that it is the latest in a long list of approaches that promise to be the holy grail of leadership. So, what is “authenticity” and how is it relevant to HR practitioners?

The ABC of authentic leadership is A for authenticity: being true to your values and to yourself. B is for bravery: having the courage to lead and to do the right thing, espe- cially in the face of danger or dissent, and C is for compas- sion: leading with empathy and a concern for the physical and emotional well-being of others. Authentic leadership links together who you are as a person, your beliefs and values, how you lead and manage, your personality, think- ing and behaviours. To be authentic is to be true to your own ethical standards of conduct, to live a life where what you say matches what you do, and importantly, both are consistent with what you believe, your principles and how you feel.

Personal authenticity, however, can be egocentric and self-centred. It can ignore everything to do with other peo- ple, including followers, who are obviously crucial to lead- ership. Being authentic as a leader oneself is therefore not the same as being an authentic leader, which involves much more than simply being true to yourself

Previously, the only empirical research into authentic leadership has been carried out in the US, using students. They, crucially, lacked any significant leadership experi- ence, thereby limiting its validity and reliability. My research in the UK, undertaken for a PhD thesis, began with an ;xtensive academic and applied literature review into lead- ership, authenticity and authentic leadership, resulting in


1. Self-awareness (cognitive)


3. Moral virtue (cognitive)


2. Self-regulation (behavioural)

4. Moral actions (behavioural)


> The cognitive and behavioural aspects of authentic leadership – a new model

the development of a new model of authentic leadership (see Chart 1, above). This theoretical model has four factors, linking the cognitive elements of self-awareness with the behavioural elements of self-regulation, and a leader’s ethi- cal thinking (which I call moral virtue) with actual behav- iours (moral actions). It therefore links the psychological aspects of leadership with its philosophical ones; a useful distinction that many leadership development initiatives fail to make.

Three pillars of authentic leadership

TO TEST THIS FOUR-FACTOR MODEL empirically, 150 item statements were generated and reviewed by an expert panel of psychologists, leaders, leadership development consultants and academics. As a result, some items were deleted and others added, resulting in a final item bank of 100 questions; 25 for each factor. These were piloted, in a self-report format, on a business leader population sample of 140 people who were either CIPD professionals or mem- bers of the UK Institute of Directors. In the final study – using a 360-degree feedback design, which mitigates the tendency for leaders to over-estimate their performance and capabilities – 54 senior RAF officers, with a mean aver- age of 19 years’ service, were rated by their superior officers, subordinates and peers, making an RAF research popula- tion sample of 380 in total.


In both the pilot business sample and the RAF officer research, an identical factor stmcture emerged, suggesting that the model and the 360-degree questionnaire could be generalised across leadership populations. Empirically, three components of authentic leadership – not four – became evident: self-awareness, self-regulation and ethics. It seems that, statistically at least, followers don’t make a distinction between the ethical and moral thinking that drives a leader’s ethical decision-making (their rhetoric) and what they do in practice. In other words, a leader is judged equally by what they say and what they do. Cru- cially, these must match, or a leader will not be trusted. Qualitative, written feedback ftom colleagues and subordi- nates found that followers evaluate a leader on their levels of consistency.

Each of the three “pillars” of authentic leadership com- prises a number of cognitive, behavioural and emotional ele- ments, which are displayed to a greater or lesser extent by all leaders (see helow, and Chart 2, overleaf). Leaders who are more authentic display more of these pro-social, appropriate attributes of “good” leadership, more of the time; and have better quality relationships with colleagues and followers than less authentic leaders do. In this sense, authentic leader- ship is “relational” rather than transactional, transforma- tional or driven by an underpinning philosophy of power or control as some other leadership approaches are.

Self-awareness includes an understanding of our own beliefs, values, thinking processes, emotions, bounda- »-»





Strengths ‘


:’ Empathy ^

¿,_ Influence

‘ Impact , ‘


Integrity • • • ^




Transparency- ‘



• ‘Discipline .

> Energy 4


” Emotional control

j / Patience ‘

‘ ‘ • Resilience


o Three pillars of authentic leadership


ries, strengths and weaknesses. It encompasses an apprecia- tion of the influence that we have over others, such as the impact that our moods, behaviours, thoughts and language have on followers and colleagues. It also incorporates a lead- er’s understanding of the motivations, emotions, thinking, beliefs, values and psychological make-up of others, at both an individual, personal level and also collectively at the stra- tegic, organisational level. The degree of a leader’s self- awareness seems to be a good predictor of the strength of their relationships with others.

Self-regulation embraces those elements of leadership concerned with self-management: a leader’s focus, their self-discipline and their ability to be actively and deliber- ately in control of their thoughts, emotions and behaviours. It includes levels of tolerance and patience, how they man- age their energy, and their physical, mental and emotional resilience. Unsurprisingly, perhaps because of the high lev- els of self-discipline and physical courage required from our military leaders, it was here that RAF officers scored most highly in the 360-degree feedback ratings from their supe- rior officers, subordinates and peers.

Ethics incorporates ethical virtue (thinking) and ethical actions, which are the cognitive and behavioural elements of a leader’s ethical orientation and are philosophical, rather than psychological, aspects of leadership. A leader’s per- sonal leadership philosophy, their professional integrity, honour, fairness and desire to do what’s right, all reside here. Balanced by the necessary commercial concems of the


sector they work within, authentic leaders have an ethos that is pro-social (geared to the good of the group as a whole) and people-focused. They have a desire to contrib- ute. They also have the moral courage to speak up for what they believe in and to remain steadfast in the face of dissent or wrongdoing by others, to the extent that they vidll blow the whistle or leave an organisation that falls short of their high ethical standards.

The three pillars comprise many cognitive, emotional and behavioural elements that, taken together, make each leader authentic in his or her own way. Interestingly, authentic leadership is correlated with a number of posi- tive organisational outcomes, of which trust is the most significant. The association between trust and authentic leadership is important because trustworthiness is the attribute that followers most seek in a leader. Moreover, high levels of trust also correlate with improved employee engagement and well-being, increased levels of creativity and problem solving, reduced employee turnover and greater productivity.

Embedding the behaviours

so WHAT MIGHT HR PROFESSIONALS do to encourage and support the strengthening of authentic leadership in their organisations? Here are some suggestions:


• Recruit for collaboration, not competitiveness. Look for leaders with an ethical, pro-social, people-focused per- spective, rather than an overly numbers-driven, task focused, goal achievement orientation. Recruit too for empathy, a willingness to apologise, and a learning orienta- tion. Everything that happens to a leader is an opportunity for them to develop their awareness about themselves and others – which is the fundamental starting point for all three pillars of authentic leadership. Without developing self-awareness and an accurate sense of self, a leader is not able to monitor, regulate and fiex their energy, focus and behaviours. Without the self-awareness to understand the implications and impact of their decisions and subsequent actions, their ethical compass will lack a sense of right and wrong and they will blunder through leadership, ulti- mately failing.

• Encourage whistleblowing. Look carefully at those people who have found the courage to risk everything for some- thing they profoundly believe in. Some of them may be exactly the right people to promote. • Develop managers and leaders vidthin a framework and philosophy of authentic leadership and the three pillars approach. When you create an organisational culture con- sistent vvrith authentic leadership, then respect, trust and all of the positive organisational outcomes associated with trust will follow. This culture vnW ensure that authentic leadership behaviours are modelled by leaders and manag- ers at all levels, thereby making the often difficult discus- sions and subsequent decisions about taking the right pro- social and ethical course of action much easier.

Turning specifically to management and leadership development programmes, some key aspects to look at are: 1. Get your philosophy right. Every effective leadership development programme has a clear philosophy that underpins it. This is usually a refiection of the leadership philosophy of the programme sponsor and/or the board. This needs to be clear, transparent, and consistent with organisational objectives. It must be supported by senior management, as it creates your organisational culture, implicitly and explicitly.

2. BuUd the programme around the three pillars of authentic leadership. Your approach and every activity must relate to one or more ofthe pillars. An example can be found on my organisation’s website, Include a 360-degree measurement before and after the programme, so that participants can get real feedback from their teams, more senior managers and their colleagues. Suppliers and clients can also be invited to contribute feed- back if appropriate.

3. Select the right people. With its pro-social, collaborative orientation, not everyone is capable of becoming an authen- tic leader. As authentic leadership development is essen- tially a personal leadership journey, recognise that not eve-

• Ipsos MORI research: “Doctors are most trusted profession – politicians least trusted” bit.iy/lpsosTnist

• DDI Global Leadership Forecast 2011 ddlworld.coin/glf2011

• Gallup 2009 research: “What followers want from leaders” biLly/Galhipfollow

f • CIPD research report – “Where has all the trust gone?”

^ PM feature “Organisa- tional effectiveness: how trust helps”

• Fiona Beddoes-Jones can be contacted at

ryone viâll want to invest the time, effort and personal introspection required to become an authentic leader – and if they do, understand that they will become an authentic leader in their own way. This may mean that ultimately, if they feel there is not a meaningful fit, they will decide to leave your organisation – or conversely, you may need to ask them to.

4. Make sure the programme is long enough. Most lead- ership development programmes last five days or fewer. This is far too short a period to allow for deep thought, self-refiection and the practice of new behaviours that will lead to sustainable change. A programme that lasts a year allows for real, organisation-relevant, project-based, live case studies and the support of a coaching and mentoring programme where leaders become mentors as well as mentees. It will also give participants enough time to develop meaningful relationships with other leaders on the programme who they may work with across the organ- isation in the future.

5. Build in an ongoing review of the programme results and successes. Tweak the programme as you go along to ensure it always achieves the desired personal, professional and organisational objectives. Making successes public, and celebrating the programme at the end, will support organi- sational culture and provide evidence of return on invest- ment. Growing leaders from within an organisation is both more effective and less costly than external appointments. It also supports intemal relationships and a more authentic organisational culture, so don’t make the programme a one- off, but rather, make it an annual or biannual benchmark of success for your organisation. •

CONCLUSION ̂ Why leaders fail

THE THREE PILLARS not only provide a route map for the development of authentic leaders, they also identify the three reasons that leaders fail. Historically, leadership failure may have involved a deficit in knowledge or exper- tise. Modern leadership failures, however, invariably seem to involve either a lack of self/other awareness, a lack of self-regulation/discipline or a moral/ethical deficit. In other words, a leader found wanting in any one ofthe three pillars of authentic leadership will not achieve their poten- tial and is more likely, ultimately, to fail. Understanding the reasons for leadership failure is as important as under- standing the components of leadership success.

This research into authentic leadership provides organi- sations with a potential blueprint and route map to identify, recruit and develop the leaders they now need to ensure a sustainable and viable future. ®


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