Leadership study: authentic leadership is effective

How companies can promote – and benefit from – authenticity

Press release

Munich, 21 June 2016 – Companies can create an environment that favours authentic behaviour on the part of their managers and employees – and thus achieve substantially more than if they just demand authenticity in their leadership model. For example, three-quarters of the German, British and Russian managers surveyed for a new study were of the opinion that authentic leadership has a positive impact on employee performance and that transformation projects function better if managers behave more in harmony with their innate values.

Nevertheless, authentic managers are still having a hard time in many companies, with only 58 percent of respondents thinking that their line managers appreciate authenticity. These are the results of a comprehensive new study of 571 international managers. Conducted by goetzpartners, Förster und Netzwerk and Prof. Matthias Spitzmüller, the study is among the first to focus closely on the success factors in, and obstacles to, authentic behaviour and leadership – and how those obstacles can be overcome.

“Companies often pay only lip service to authenticity,” says Eberhard Hübbe, a partner at goetzpartners. “But paradigm shifts – such as the digital transformation now taking place – require that employees have the confidence in their line managers that only authentic leaders can inspire. With conventional hierarchical mechanisms breaking down, corporate management is in need of a new leadership paradigm.”

Better performance, more orientation

In the study, 77 percent of managers stated that authentic behaviour had a positive impact on their own performance and that, in times of uncertainty, employees are more likely to align themselves with authentic managers.

“Authenticity is often misconstrued as living out all one’s personal traits – including the negative ones,” explains Prof. Spitzmüller. “But it has much more to do with managers acting and communicating from conviction – and thus exuding a feeling of reliability that has a positive impact not only on their employees, but also on the latter’s performance.”

The study reveals that authentic behaviour can be fostered within the company, the three key factors being:

1. Managers’ professional expertise: Managers who make a convincing impression with their professional expertise are perceived as being more authentic than those who wield only functional power, i.e. the power deriving from their position in the company.

2. The right mix of belonging and individuality: The strongest feelings of authenticity are experienced by managers and employees who have both a sense of belonging and the feeling that they are appreciated as individuals in the workplace.

3. The ability to work independently: Managers and employees who are given responsibility, and who can determine themselves when, how, where and with whom they complete a task, experience a stronger sense of authenticity than others.

As Lars Förster of Förster und Netzwerk explains: “Companies wanting to create a favourable environment for authenticity should promote a corporate culture and an organisational structure that systematically encourage self-reflection and discourse. Only managers who know their own inner values and have to reflect on their behaviour will put in a strong performance for the organisation in the long term.“

Intercultural differences

The study’s comparison of managers in Germany, Russia and the UK revealed that Russian managers are much less affected by conflicts between work and private life than the average. By contrast, British managers appear to be surprisingly immune to the influence exerted by their own line managers: their managers’ leadership style has substantially less impact on their own sense of authenticity than is the case with their peers in the other two countries. In general, managers in the UK feel themselves to be more instrumentalised than managers in Germany and Russia.

About the study “Clear stance, clear direction”

The joint study is entitled “Clear stance, clear direction. How companies promote – and benefit from – authenticity“. In November 2015, goetzpartners, Förster und Netzwerk and Prof. Matthias Spitzmüller (who works at the Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada) surveyed a total of 571 managers. Around 40 percent of those surveyed were from Germany, and just under 30 percent each from the UK and Russia.

You can download the full study HERE.

About goetzpartners

goetzpartners is an independent advisory firm for all key issues of entrepreneurial activity: Strategy, M&A and Transformation. With 300 consultants operating out of 12 offices in 9 countries in all key industries worldwide. goetzpartners ranks among best-performing German advisory firms (Lünendonk®). In the “Best of Consulting” awards, goetzpartners took first place in the “Project Excellence” (2014) category and received an award in the “M&A, Finance and Risk Management” category (2015).

About Förster und Netzwerk

A network of organisational consultants, teaching experts, coaches and scientists, Förster und Netzwerk provides support in developing and anchoring leadership quality in organisational contexts. In 2016, for the third consecutive year, business magazine brand eins rated the network one of Germany’s best consultancies in its field of expertise.

About Matthias Spitzmüller

Prof. Matthias Spitzmüller is Assistant Professor at the Smith School of Business, Ontario, Canada. He completed a PhD at Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) and an MBA at St. Gallen University, Switzerland. Matthias Spitzmüller’s research and teaching is focused on organisational behaviour and human resource management. Some of his research has been published in the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Applied Psychology and the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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