What Is Authentic Bold Leadership?

"Freedom lies in being bold." - Robert Frost

This quote sums it up so well. Nothing is as liberating as being your authentic, unabashed self.

Imagine if we could do that at work?  The increase in each individual’s value-add would grow exponentially not to mention the positive impact on employee engagement.

The harsh reality is we are all expected to behave, dress, talk, and speak a certain way to be considered a leader. But is that really the way it needs to be?

I say “no.” And I will tell you why.

Let’s first breakdown what leadership is not, and what it is. Then we can define Bold Leadership.

Leadership is not:

- Hierarchical or Seniority-based

- Based on personal attributes (charismatic, domineering, etc.)

- Management (Managers manage things and sometimes people, but they aren’t always Leaders)

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it.” - Andrew Carnegie
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The Merriam Webster definition of Leadership is: (noun) the action of leading a group of people or an organization. I personally like author Kevin Kruse’s definition of leadership best – a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.

Based on this definition, Leadership is:

- Social influence, not authority or power

- Requires others, meaning it requires a team to be an effective leader (note: they don’t have to be direct reports)

- Has nothing to do with personality traits, attributes, or even a title

- Not cookie cutter

- Goal-oriented 

Now looking at bold leaders they concentrate on being:

- Confident

- Decisive

- Accountable

- Rapport savvy

- Opportunistic in business

- Change agents

- Visionary

- Fearless

- Dedicated

- Collaborative

- Customer or Client focused

Bad leadership is everywhere (thumbs down emoji)

Good leadership is great. Bold leadership is better as you can see from the list of admirable qualities above, however I say it’s not good enough.

I want to take it a step further.

"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”- Warren Bennis

Yes, I agree!

Not only because he is a widely regarded pioneer of the contemporary field of Leadership Studies, but because I have seen this in my own 20+ years of experience first-hand.

Bold Leaders have amazing traits but they still fit into a "cookie cutter" role that is expected of them. Authentic, Bold Leaders have the courage to bring their authentic self to work and leverage their personal story, personality, passion, perceptions and pedigree to add value. And the very successful ones know when, how much, and how to enroll others (I.e. employee engagement) to build momentum toward their vision and goals. This is when it starts to get interesting. It’s only with the complete story and an authentic, bold approach that real change and innovation can happen.

"It’s only with the complete story and an authentic, bold approach that real change and innovation can happen"

What value do you see bold leadership bringing to your organization?

What has been your experience with bold leaders?

Share your experience here in the comments.


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Kendra Dahlstrom is an author, keynote speaker and organizational leadership expert who shares winning strategies with your clients to help them transform from ordinary to extraordinary by unearthing their natural-born leadership so they can live to their full potential in life and at work. Her book “Leading from Your Power: Boldly Influence Others by Being Your Authentic Self” is set for release in January 2018.