Achieving authentic leadership via psychosynthesis

A new coaching model can help senior managers to embrace, and benefit from, a more authentic leadership style, says Alexandra Hatfield.

The recognition of the importance of trust within organisations has fuelled the demand for authentic leadership. Character-based leaders with integrity are trusted more than charismatic leaders with an image. This realisation that great leadership comes from who you are, your values and what you’re passionate about is a triumph for substance over style.

But the question is: how can leaders develop their authenticity?

Authentic leaders are principled; they think about their own internal dynamics – and those of the people and systems they serve – and this creates an adaptability where they put the interests of the organisation ahead of their own. They’re open and sensitive to different opinions and viewpoints.

This approach to leadership is highly prized in today’s organisations, not only because it promotes trust but also because it improves working relationships. It also sets a positive example of conducive behaviour that cascades down throughout the organisation.

The development challenge here is that authenticity is not easy to achieve. We all behave inauthentically at times, saying and doing things without concern or compassion for others. But now there’s a new development option called ‘psychosynthesis coaching’ which can help senior managers to cultivate the necessary self awareness and capabilities that are required for authentic leadership.

Coaching can add value by helping [senior managers] to ‘manage’ their relationship with themselves and be authentic in their relationships with those around them. 

Psychosynthesis is an established discipline within psychology. It offers a way to rekindle our inner resources, strengths and values – and overcome any internal conflicts or blocks – so that we can discover who we really are, find meaning in our work, improve our effectiveness and lead a more fulfilling life.

Overcoming cynicism

Experienced leaders are sometimes cynical about coaching and development. Over many years, they’ll have sat through countless leadership programmes, so they may be understandably sceptical about the merits of a different approach.

But, at the same time, many leaders will be fully aware that their natural behaviour is at odds with the behaviour that they’re inclined to adopt (or that they feel is required) at work.

Psychosynthesis coaching not only helps leaders to improve their relationships with others, it also improves their most fundamental relationship, which is with themselves. This in turn enhances their well-being and their sense of self-worth.

It helps leaders to align their work behaviour with their aspirational values, so they can get excited and feel truly passionate about the meaning and purpose of their work. It therefore enables individuals to transform from being a ‘heroic leader’ (who retains the power within the organisation) to become a ‘servant leader’ (who serves the greater good).

A senior manager will usually already have high levels of practical management skills and competencies. Coaching can add value by helping them to ‘manage’ their relationship with themselves and be authentic in their relationships with those around them.

However, if their CEO is a distant, invulnerable figure who never asks for help, it’s easy for that culture to prevail throughout the executive team. It takes courage for a senior manager to challenge their own attitudes and to re-learn a way of leading that’s different to the organisational norm.

Psychosynthesis coaching, from a qualified coach, has proved to be an effective catalyst that can help and support leaders through this change.

As well as encouraging leaders to become more self-aware, psychosynthesis coaching helps them to understand more about the impact they have on other people. Unlike psychotherapy, which centres on the past, psychosynthesis coaching focuses on the here and now, as well as the emerging future.

This can be beneficial for anyone but it is particularly valuable to those who are experiencing internal conflict, are searching for greater purpose and meaning in their role or who’re at a crossroads in their life.

For example, in the present moment, a leader may feel demotivated or uninspired in their job and they may have the niggling feeling that there’s more to life than work. In other words, there may be a gap between where they are now and where they want to be (even though they may not know exactly where that is!).

Any coach’s role would be to help that person build their own self awareness and act to bridge that gap. The difference with psychosynthesis is that it is highly practical and goal-oriented. It focuses on the coachee’s free-will and their readiness to take small steps to learn and achieve different outcomes.

As such, it helps an individual to understand their core values – and to see more clearly where they are compromising themselves and responding inappropriately, so they can embrace and replicate their authenticity and become more effective.

Psychosynthesis coaching also encourages leaders not only to understand the impact they have on others but also to see the potential in those around them. It assures them that asking for appropriate help when they need it, is a positive sign of authenticity, humility and servant leadership.

Through a greater recognition and appreciation of themselves, and of others, leaders start to see the demands on them very differently. They gain a deeper understanding of how the organisation really functions as a living dynamic system with its own forces and, in turn, how they and those around them are impacted by that system.

Psychosynthesis coaching can be applied at different levels in organisations. However, it remains predominately an option for enabling senior managers to benefit from greater authenticity. When employees see their leaders as trustworthy and authentic, it gives them ‘permission’ to be the same.

That can have a transformational impact on any organisation.


About the author

Alexandra Hatfield MA (Psych), PGCert (Organisational and Executive Coaching) is a principal consultant at leadership development specialist Hemsley Fraser.


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