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Authentic Leadership

“The essence of Leadership is not giving things or even providing visions. It is offering oneself and one’s spirit”

What is it about great leaders that make them great? Think about someone you admire as a leader – it could be a coach you had, a teacher, a parent, a boss, a peer, a friend or someone in the world of politics, business or sport. Most descriptions of leaders will include qualities such as vision, innovation, drive or results and they are clearly qualities we admire and expect. Authentic leadership comes from a different perspective. Its leading from the inside out and at its core lies self-awareness. It is what differentiates great leaders from average leaders. Truly knowing and understanding yourself, your strengths and limitations and having an awareness of how they impact you and those around you is crucial to your success as a leader.

It is this awareness of both self and others that makes how we communicate meaningful and ultimately connects people. As a leader it empowers our ability to influence, it enables us to unleash our whole selves – mind, body and spirit – and ultimately create value both within and outside our organisations. The two interactive qualities identified by Daniel Goleman in his work on Emotional Intelligence are awareness of self and awareness of others. So authentic leaders pay attention to the “I” as well as the “we”.

During my Master’s program on Behavioural Change which I undertook to help me be a better executive coach and a better leader, I hadn’t expected such a strong focus to be put on understanding self and ultimately self-mastery. Of course on reflection it makes complete sense – how can I bring the best version of myself to my work if I don’t know what that is in the first place?

So if self-awareness is a key component of Authentic Leadership – what are the benefits?

Research conducted as part of a Masters project on Authentic Leadership suggests that the real benefits of self-awareness to leaders are:

  • Being Prepared – having an awareness of how you need to be to get the best out of a situation or a meeting.
  • Openness – being honest, being direct and being open to others perspectives.
  • Staying on track – congruence with your values and goals.
  • Increased awareness of others –including the ability to recognise potential conflicting reactions.

Authentic leadership and self-awareness are non-hierarchical. They both relate to anyone who is influencing to create value. So we have people throughout our organisations who are leaders. They are digging deep to understand their talents and connecting with others to use them in the best possible way and for the greater cause.

“Dig inside. Inside is the fountain of good and it will forever flow if you will forever dig.”

Deirdre Coghlan-Murray is Managing Director of Clark and an Executive Coach. She works with individuals and teams who want to be the best they can be – authentically.Deirdre can be contacted on 045 881888 or by email

Since 1999 International Coaching Week (15th-21st May 2017) has provided a platform to enhance awareness of professional coaching and its many benefits.