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Courageous Authenticity (Barry Goldberg On Leadership)

3 min read

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You can tell a lot about any coach or organizational development practitioner by the tools they use.

If there is a polar opposite to the summary assessments that purport to provide an in-depth personality “type” based on filling out a short form, the Leadership Circle Profile would be it. This month, I want to dive into the most influential capacities for leadership as defined by the Leadership Circle Profile: integrity and courageous authenticity.

Together, these make up a dimension that the instrument labels as “authenticity.” The interpretive manual for the Leadership Circle 360 describes authenticity this way: “It measures the extent to which your leadership is an expression of your true self — not masked by organizational politics, looking good, winning approval, etc. It also measures your ability to take tough stands, bring up the ‘un-discussables,’ openly deal with relationship problems, and share personal feelings/vulnerabilities about a situation.”

If this sounds like “soft stuff,” I have bad news for you. Leaders who score low on this dimension are described as those who:

► Articulate unrealistic or unachievable goals,

► Are caught up in internal politics,

► Are unwilling to own errors and mistakes,

► Make agreements that they cannot or will not support, and

► Avoid confronting issues.

However, those with high scores are seen as:

► Open and honest,

► Courageous in meetings,

► Bringing up important issues others are reluctant to talk about and creating an environment in which those issues can be discussed and solved,

► Meeting their commitments, and

► Respecting other opinions, even if they disagree.

While the rest of the task and relational capacities deal with what are more familiar kinds of topics, distilled to their core, they are described in the summary above. And the research behind the use of this instrument shows that leaders with high levels of courageous authenticity and integrity lead organizations that outperform their competitors and show lower turnover.

The challenge with these capabilities is that they are very hard to develop in short timeframes through training or coaching. Technical skills matter, as does depth of experience. But if you want to strive for sustainable growth and profitability, you must look for these capacities in executives and managers you hire.

Want to screen for this in your executive and managerial hires? Here are a few ways to look for courageous authenticity and integrity:

► Look for a time that the leader directly, but constructively, addressed team performance head on, and then coached the team to better outcomes.

► Ask about times that they chose to constructively “swim upstream” of decisions they disagreed with, based on clear data.

► Determine if they can identify and surface the challenging issues without making the discussions a personal vendetta.

► Discover whether they speak openly in the presence of more senior authority.

Of course, you want business skills and experience, as well as domain expertise, in any leader that you hire. But these kinds of measures go straight to the heart of leadership capabilities, which are the conduit for putting technical smarts to work in a constructive manner.


I. Barry Goldberg is a credentialed executive coach with a global client base. Reach out to him at barryg@ibgoldberg.com or visit his blog at ibarrygoldberg.substack.com
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