I am currently in coaching relationships with a number of leaders who need to make a shift from operational leadership to strategic leadership.  This requires some paradigms shifts, to move from the place of working “in” the business, to working “on” the business.  It’s a real challenge to take a hands-off approach when you are so familiar with a hands-on approach. I like to offer my clients different leadership perspectives that might help them to articulate and start to practice their leadership in a new way.   One of the tools that has has been helpful in this process is The Authentic Leadership Paradox Wheel.

Nowadays, leaders are expected to constantly juggle a delicate balance between apparent conflicting behaviors. They need to be tough and courageous but also empathetic and compassionate, model self-reliance and optimism while at the same time opening and trusting to and with others.

The Authentic Leadership Paradox Model (Bunker & Wakefield, 2005), developed by Centre for Creative Leadership, provides insight into the delicate process of developing trustworthy leadership behaviors. Trust is the hub of the wheel.  Trust is what is at stake as people form impressions of leadership based on the balance of behaviors expressed on the twelve spokes.

A hub surrounded by a finely tuned set of interdependent spokes is a useful metaphor for understanding the dynamics at play when leading in the face of change. Attributes are in pairs of opposites around the wheel. Optimism is, for example, opposite and balanced by Realism.  Each spoke, from the outer to the inner ring, is a measuring yardstick.

A person who is exhibiting an appropriate pattern and level of behavior relative to a given attribute will be perceived as doing it right, and the resultant score will be plotted on the bold, dark circle for that scale. A leader perceived as underdoing would be plotted somewhere inside the bold circle, toward the hub, depending on the perceived degree of deviation from about right.  Similarly, overdoing scores are plotted outside the bold circle and toward the outer edge of the wheel. For example,  overdone Optimism and underdone Realism will pull  that particular spoke well out of balance.  Notice the subtly—that attributes that are next to one another, on the same side of the wheel, are  linked. For example, a person overdoing Sense of Urgency, might likely also be overdoing Being Tough.

What are your own particular patterns of overdoing and underdoing on the twelve attributes? Without assessment or honest self-examination you may not be aware where your leadership spokes are improperly tuned.


Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach based in Cape Town.  She works locally and internationally with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches.  To learn more about her work please visit her website www.motivcoach.com, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates.

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I work with only a select number of clients at any time. If you think we are a good fit, please email me on motivcoach@gmail.com