This book has been around for a few years now, but is as relevant as ever. I was travelling recently and ended up chatting to a fellow passenger on the plane. 

We talked about leadership and they enthusiastically pulled out the HBR article that Rob and Gareth had produced. The conversation flowed (as did the wine) and I started to remember what a good book it is – and one that fits so well with my own views on what makes great leaders.

So, I reread it and got in touch with Rob to interview him about the subject

The book starts with a conversation about the changing nature of work – a change that is only accelerating. The authors discuss the triumph of individualism and the degrading of work, both through the removal of the psychological contract, and the delayering of organisations that removes the possibility of reward through promotion. They argue that this has led to a demand for authentic leadership. When the leadership in most organisations is asked what competencies are most important for their people to develop the answer is almost always that they want to see more effective leadership at every level.

So while they are in such short supply? Well, firstly organisational structures do not support genuine effective leadership and secondly many people don’t understand what leadership really is. The authors argue that there is no single model of leadership; people who aspire to leadership need to deploy their own personal approach and use the skills and talents they have.

The authors discuss some fundamental axioms about leadership and go on to define authentic leadership. I love the simplicity of their conclusion; that the effective leader must be themselves, and more, with skill. This then opens up a whole debate about what that really means, and the book has some interesting angles on this. I see parallels with the leadership model we like, that we build our development and assessment centres around, and the 36o that goes with that

I like the case studies they use – Gareth was HRD at the BBC when Greg Dyke was in charge, and there’s some good stories from him, but they go out of their way to find equally compelling examples from people at all levels in organisations, showing great leadership without being household names. That resonated with me and our belief that leadership shows up wherever you are in an hierarchy – it’s all about taking ownership and responsibility

In summary, a fine book about leadership, with messages that will remain relevant as organisations and leaders work their way through the current challenging times and, more long term, as we see a fundamental and necessary shift in the way organisations are structured, leaders behave and how we as coaches show up to support them on their journey