Authenticity, values, and connected leadership

by | Sep 30, 2016 | Articles

Organisations that want to thrive must seek to find a compelling set of values, exercise them authentically across their operations and communicate them clearly to their stakeholders. Alliance MBS alumni and students are leading the change, including  Dr Simon Hayward (MBA, 1986 and DBA, 2015), founder and CEO of Cirrus and author of Connected Leadership: How to build a more agile, customer-driven business.

Authenticity and values are no longer just nice things to have. They can boost business performance.

In recent years we have witnessed a breakdown of trust in organisations following many high-profile cases of misselling, misreporting and corruption. In some cases, the consequences have run into billions of pounds in damages and stock market value write-downs. Corporate amorality is a costly business.

Leaders need to be role models for authenticity and values across organisations. If, for example, leaders behave in ways that show how much they prize integrity, organisational culture tends to reflect this. It is more likely that people across the business will deliver on their promises to each other and to customers.

I completed my MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School in the 1980s and went on to build successful leadership consultancies. I started my current business Cirrus, in 2000. At the same time, I returned to AMBS to embark on my DBA. From my work with organisations such as Marks & Spencer, HSBC and Three, I witnessed the demands of leadership changing very significantly. It became clear that command-and-control leadership was simply incompatible with a more complex and less predictable business environment. I observed that most successful leaders connect people across organisations to strategic goals and to customers by developing a shared agenda through purpose, direction and values. They devolve decision-making responsibility and encourage a culture of collaboration. They stimulate a high degree of empowerment and trust that each person and team will perform to the best of their ability. They increase agility through developing a learning culture that drives innovation and ruthless prioritisation.

Values and authenticity are extremely important to them. I decided to make this move towards a more ‘connected’ style of leadership the focus of my DBA research. I also combined my academic research with 25 years of consulting experience to write a book, Connected Leadership, which was published by FT Publishing in 2015 – just after I was awarded my DBA.

My research into large organisations, as well as my analysis of international research into leadership effectiveness, identified five key factors which contribute to a style of leadership suited to this networked world in which we live. Taken together, these factors build the strong connections which enable an organisation to achieve its goals and ultimate purpose in our rapidly changing world. Authenticity is one of the five factors of Connected Leadership. The other factors are purpose and direction, devolved decision-making, collaborative achievement, and agility. The benefits of connected leadership are both tangible in terms of the impact on performance and intangible in that `they create a high performing culture which provides sustainable advantage in the marketplace.”

Authenticity is a prerequisite for the quality of trust that is required for distributed leadership to work in practice. It suggests that leaders need to have high levels of self-awareness, a strong moral compass, the ability to make sense of information in a balanced way, and the ability to form open and transparent relationships. Leaders who act in an ethical way and who build relationships of trust engender stronger commitment among the people they lead than those who do not.

Leadership based on balanced judgement and fairness of decision-making engages colleagues and encourages them to develop effective, connected relationships across the organisation, which ultimately leads to better customer experiences. At a personal level, this is about how leaders behave, based on their own values, and their personal authenticity. I am not talking about the values statement on your office or on your corporate website, I am talking about what is happening in reality -the actual values shared by you and your colleagues help to create the culture and underpin the norms or assumptions on which the culture is based. So if integrity really is paramount in the organisation, the way all senior managers behave must reflect this. If anyone fails to do so, leaders need the courage not only to challenge them but eventually take steps to part company with them.

Much of the focus of leadership development over the last two decades has been on developing inspirational or transformational leaders. Authentic leadership represents a more inclusive and less individualistic style of leadership than transformational leadership. It is more in keeping with the shared process of connected leadership. Research shows that authentic leadership encourages a positive culture in which people are motivated to give of their best. This results in increased levels of employee wellbeing which encourages engagement and people feeling more competent which, in turn, leads to improved productivity and people choosing to take increased responsibility.

As a former chair of the Alliance MBS Alumni Association, I have always valued the views of my fellow alumni. If you’d like to share yours, please email me or tweet me @SimonJHayward. I’d love to know what you think.

Watch Dr Nick Clifford from Alliance Manchester Business School share his reflections on Connected Leadership.

See Dr Simon Hayward talk about how Connected Leadership grew out of his doctoral research at Alliance Manchester Business School.

 

 

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