Press Release: The Route To Authentic Leadership

“Delayering, downsizing, and reengineering have exacted a steep price in human capital,” say Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, authors of a highly anticipated new landmark study on leadership titled, WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE LED BY YOU? WHAT IT TAKES TO BE AN AUTHENTIC LEADER (Harvard Business School Press; $26.95 hardcover; February 2006). “Today’s restructuring has produced not empowerment, but a sense of cynicism, betrayal and mistrust–and a climate unlikely to foster the commitment and personal risk-taking required for effective leadership,” say Goffee and Jones. As traditional career structures collapse and a knowledge economy continues to increase the ranks of technical experts, leaders in business, government, and education who possess the interpersonal abilities to address our growing dissatisfaction and the challenges of competition with skillful authenticity grow scarcer.

A departure from current leadership literature that focuses on the characteristics of leaders–and assumes leadership is something we do to other people–the authors argue that leadership must always be viewed as a relationship between the leader and the led. WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE LED BY YOU? is not a book that admonishes readers to emulate today’s most publicized leaders. Rather, it draws on real world examples–including Richard Branson of Virgin, Franz Humer, Chief Executive and Chairman of the Roche pharmaceutical empire, Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates, SONY founder Akio Morita, and Greg Dyke, former director General of the BBC–to reveal three fundamental axioms about leadership in action:

  • Leadership is situational. What is required of the leader will always be influenced by the situation. Effective leaders are adept at situation sensing and through their interactions, able to construct alternative contexts, compelling narratives that reframe situations–to the benefit of those they lead.
  • Leadership is non-hierarchical. The persistent misconception that people who occupy senior organizational positions are leaders has, according to the authors, damaged our capacity to understand leadership more than anything else. While titles may confer some hierarchical authority, hierarchy alone is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for the exercise of leadership and successful organizations have leaders at all levels.
  • Leader is relational. Leadership is a social construct, a relationship built actively by both parties, requiring cultivation and nurture.

Drawing on their own research, begun some 25 years ago, the authors create a model of effective leadership with proven theories tested with thousands of executives in workshops worldwide, through observations with numerous clients, and within their own organization. According to the authors, inspirational leaders exhibit four unexpected behaviors, each of which is rooted in a personal authenticity:

  • They selectively show their weaknesses. By exposing some vulnerability, they reveal their approachability and humanity.
  • They rely heavily on intuition to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions. Their ability to collect and interpret soft data helps them know when and how to act.
  • They manage employees with “tough empathy.” Inspirational leaders empathize passionately and realistically with people, and care intensely about the work employees do.
  • They reveal their differences. They capitalize on what’s unique about themselves.

Goffee and Jones marshal a wealth of sociological study to reveal the secrets of these “authentic chameleons“–leaders seen by their colleagues as possessing enigmatic qualities and a seemingly innate understanding of when to conform and when to stand apart. Drawing on the related studies done by Nitin Nohria/Anthony Mayo and Michael Maccoby, the authors reveal how these leaders combine self-knowledge with acute abilities as “situation sensors,” enabling them to be themselves in context with skill. They offer tips for sharpening situation-sensing skills, as well as advice for apprehending the subtle dimension of team structures and their progression through four distinct stages.

“Effective leaders challenge and conform, adjusting enough to the existing culture to gain the traction and leverage to be effective while maintaining enough social distance to ensure the respect and support necessary to lead,” note the authors. Employing a proprietary Double S.Cube, WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE LED BY YOU? distinguishes four organization types leaders can use to identify and manage an organization. Also, Goffee and Jones reveal the four things effective leaders know their followers want and conversely, how followers can contribute to the creation of an effective and authentic leadership model. Ultimately, effective leaders are compelling storytellers, say the authors, who shape events into a compelling vision, signaling where the capability challenge lies.

“Effective leaders challenge and conform, adjusting enough to the existing culture to gain the traction and leverage to be effective while maintaining enough social distance to ensure the respect and support necessary to lead,” note the authors. Employing a proprietary Double S.Cube, WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE LED BY YOU? distinguishes four organization types leaders can use to identify and manage an organization. Also, Goffee and Jones reveal the four things effective leaders know their followers want and conversely, how followers can contribute to the creation of the effective and authentic leaders of today. Ultimately, effective leaders are compelling storytellers, say the authors, who shape events into a compelling vision, signaling where the capability challenge lies.

“There are no magic formulas,” conclude Goffee and Jones. “Leadership isn’t a part time job and leaders are more than role-players. But, whatever the price of leadership, the prize is worth it. And it emerges in all kinds of places.”

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If you want to interview Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones, please contact Sue Blake.