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I had the privilege of seeing Bill George speak last year on the subject of Authentic Leadership and followed up by reading his book, True North. All good stuff. Lots of moral compasses, support networks, personal belief systems and integrated diagrams

[well done, graphics department – hurrah!]

all of which make absolute sense and tie in with core psycholgical and social principles.

Good, I thought, another entry in the BadConsultant knowledge management database to be repackaged, repurposed and resold to dumb, rich clients

[we love dumb, rich clients]

everywhere.

Except then it started happening.

And BadConsultant began to feel a little like Alice down the rabbit hole, or Neo taking the red pill.

When it first happened, it was a beautiful sunny day, birds were chirping in the trees, children danced in the grass of the park, a milkman trundled by on his chinkling cart. And in the conference room, an executive pulled up a slide which described his corporate strategy as ‘True North’.

I’d seen this scene before.

What followed in that session and even more so in the months that have followed

[leadership survivalist tactics in economic crisis as last-ditch catalyst, anyone… anyone?]

was the commoditization of the word ‘authentic’ into nearly every aspect of leadership decision-making, behavior and action. Which would be great if it were authentic.

Except the same leaders who never made decisions are now touting their authenticity – but still not making decisions.

And the same leaders who ignored substantial swathes of their organization are now doing so authentically.

And in the same breath inferring that everyone else is like… er… so… rilly, rilly inauthentic.

[or non-authentic… or un-authentic… or authentic-less… They haven’t quite working out the anti-authentic word yet]

So, what started as a look behind the veil of leadership, of how to navigate the singular challenges of being a senior executive in a ‘modern’ organization, rapidly descended into the land of homily, buzz-phrase and smoke-screen.

How sad.

BadConsultant openly predicts that leadership development curricula across ‘modern’ organizations will have ‘Introduction to Authenticity 101’ type courses very shortly. May we suggest some snappier titles? How about:

  • ‘Knowing me, knowing you’ – how to win through denial!
  • ‘The authentic side-step‘ – dancing the tango of non-commitment
  • ‘Keeping it real’ – what the rap world teaches us about corporate politics
  • ‘I love you just the way you are’ – don’t go changing to try to please me

Authentically yours,

BC