Authentic Leadership: A Courageous Challenge

Over recent decades, corporates showed us they cared through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agendas; most of which have been a fringe component to a business's main activity. But regulators and conscious stakeholders are increasingly disinterested in something on the fringe: authentic, holistically prosperous business is now the order of the day.

This process of change has shifted brand value from “goal” to "side-effect" - a good brand can no longer be rooted in tactics, it must be rooted in reality. And any company found wanting shouldn't be surprised to suffer significant reputational damage.

And the same is to be said of us. Because alongside rising expectations of corporate standards are rising expectations of behaviour in the workplace. Leaders in particular must show that they care. And mean it.

But after so long in a system that has rewarded a self-centred approach to business, shifting people to be more authentically outwardly focused is not going to be quick and easy and, like any sustainable change, it will take the co-operation of a host of factors. But change they must.

Yet whilst we should encourage and cajole leadership to be become more authentic (more "human"?) we should be mindful that those currently in a senior role grew up through a system that very happily asked a different set of behaviours from them.

So before we're quick to judge the personal failures that we see day to day and the high profile failures that, sadly, will no doubt inevitably come, let's give senior leadership the space to grow at a pace that will generate sincere, long term change in both them and their companies and remind ourselves that the role of a senior leader is a public, often lonely, increasingly transparent role that not many would have the courage or emotional capacity to endure; particularly today.