Are you an authentic leader? Grab these five books and find out…

watch-icon June 28, 2021

Are you an authentic leader? Grab these five books and find out…

Authenticity… it’s a buzz word that we use in organisations. What we’ve found to be true is that the common definition in the workplace is closer to ‘being honest’​ than ‘being authentic’​. Let’s explore the definition of authenticity before we move to much further.

 Authenticity (Cambridge Dictionary) – the quality of being real or true.

The term “being”​ is important here because authenticity isn’t just about saying the right things or telling the truth, it’s a state of being. A synonym is genuine. The way I like to think about authenticity is that it’s the truest form of myself. Its my boundaries, my thinking preferences, my values, my strengths and my weakness. I am who I am and that’s how I turn up and lead.

We proponents for allowing people to step into their authenticity to lead. We know that ‘who you are is how you lead’​.

Now, big disclaimer here… if you believe your authentic self is someone who is offensive, racist, sexist, ablest, cruel or violent… there’s no room for that kind of behaviour in leadership and its time to do some real work on you and who you ‘actually’​ are. Generally these behaviours stem from an underlying issue of the self – eg: narcissism, sociopathy, and/or trauma – so our advice is to get help to become the kind of leader you can be proud of.

 However, if you are someone who wants to be authentic and wants to learn some skills that will contribute to you being able to be authentic and be a leader who people want to follow, here are some books that we recommend. These books are foundation stones in our leadership and culture programs.

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We love these books so much we are giving you the opportunity to get a basket full of them. We’ll be at AHRI SA Conference. Come and visit us, pop your card in the bowl and we’ll give a lucky participant a basket full of authentic leadership!

If you are South Australian please buy from a local owned bookshop if possible, Dillon’s on the Norwood Parade is my favourite. Otherwise buy online from Booktopia because it is still Aussie owned. 

Unleashed – Frances Frei and Anne Morris

Buy the Book through Booktopia

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 Frances Frei in an interview about Unleashed says is best:

“Here’s the basic formula: people tend to trust you when they think they are interacting with the real you (authenticity), when they have faith in your judgment and competence (logic), and when they believe that you care about them (empathy). We call these three pillars the drivers of your “trust triangle.”​

Leaders are instructed to figure out which of these drivers tends to get “wobbly”​ on them in situations where trust has broken down. We all wobble on trust some of the time, so start by figuring out your own patterns. The good news is that small changes in behavior can go a long way. For example, empathy wobblers can build more trust by putting away their phones. Logic wobblers can change the way they present information, starting with the headline first.”​

A highly actionable and insightful look at leadership and trust.

Dare to Lead – Dr Brené Brown

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Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time managing ineffective and unproductive behaviour.

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You knew I was going to add this one. As a Certified DTL Facilitator you may think I’m a little bias in my recommendation, but I still maintain that this is a game changer book for leaders. The book (and the program) are designed to focus on leadership from the inside out. It provides insights into four (4) skills sets that leaders need to be courageous.

  • Rumbling with Vulnerability
  • Braving Trust
  • Living into your Values
  • Learning to Rise

If you haven’t picked up DTL yet and you’re still wondering if its for you, here’s a first step – listen to the first episode of Brené’s podcast and then but the book. And then… I will see you on the other-side.

Advice Trap – Michael Bungay Stanier

 Buy the Book through Booktopia 

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This is a trap that we all fall into, particularly if we’ve been working in an ‘advisory’​ role for a while. However, as Bungay Stanier tells us staying out of the trap gives us and them a better outcome.

To get out of the Advice Trap, you have to tame your Advice Monster. That’s what this book helps you to do. Obviously, there’s a time and a place for giving advice. In fact, the last chapter is about how to give advice. But to be better leaders we need to break out from the habit of giving advice. Bungay Stanier tells us that the three reasons advice giving doesn’t get results is:

  1. You’re solving the wrong challenge. More often than not, you’re offering up insights and solutions (brilliant or not) to the wrong problem.
  2. Your advice is mediocre. We think that our ideas are better than they really are. “We all assert cognitive bias and think that our idea is the smart idea, the right idea, and the best idea because it lives in our head”​ say Bungay Stanier
  3. You are draining everyone’s energy. If you’re on the receiving end, advice carries an underlying message that you’re not experienced or clever enough to figure out how to figure out the challenge for yourself. 

Instead of falling into this trap Bungay Stanier offers us 7 great questions to help us to sit in our authenticity and turn up into conversations as a coach rather than advisor. Helping others learn takes a bit longer, but it pays off in the long run. 

Culture Inc. – Michelle T Holland

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Now you can tell me I’m truly bias in recommending this one… but still … it’s a good ‘how to’​ guide if you are still wondering where to start with culture. It’s not going to give you all the answers and it certainly won’t offer you a simple one size fits all solution, but what it does is provide a structured and well used process to create the kind of culture that you want in your business. A 7 step process is documented in the book as is our 3F’s model of culture. The form, flow and feel model helps you to ensure that all facets of culture is addressed.

 Extract from the book:

 This is the definition I use that underpins the principles of this book:

 “Culture is how we do things around here, why we do them that way, and how we feel about what we are doing. Culture is created by the way we form a business and lay the foundation stones that the business is built on… i.e.: the vision, the strategies, the structures, and decision making. Culture is maintained by how the work flows through the business using systems, rewards, policies and processes that continue to reinforce the way we do things and why we do them. And it’s demonstrated in the way we feel about the mission of the business, the work we do, the people we work for and with, and our customer.

Therefore, culture is the way the business forms, flows and feels.”  

The Infinite Game – Simon Sinek

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This is officially my new favourite leadership book. Its one of those books where I give the thigh a slap and say ‘damn right Simon’​ in every chapter.

The overarching premise of the book is that we too often think about business, work and life the same way we think about a football game. When we think of sport and compare sport to business we are falling into a finite mindset. I.e.: in sport there are defined rules, there are clear players, and there is a defined end with a winner and a loser. Business, work, life, career is not like that. When we strive to ‘be the best’​ its giving the illusion that there is a specific metric of ‘best’​ which there is not. If instead we can think about the infinite nature of life, business, career and work… i.e.: we see that business/society was here before we were and will be here after we have gone, then we can act in a way that is focused on being better, instead of being the ‘best’​. We let go of comparison and instead accept that life is about learning. We accept that we won’t win and instead get better at playing the game.

Similar to the concept of fixed and growth mindset by Carol Dweck, the infinite game explores the mindset needed to be an adaptive and authentic leader, and extended the thinking into being focused on the bigger picture of life and purpose, working to advance a just (or worthy) cause rather than just getting the proverbial ‘runs on the board’​.

Thinking and acting in an infinite game makes the game all the more interesting.

The five themes explored in the book:

  • Advance a just cause
  • Build trusting teams
  • Study worthy rivals
  • Prepare for existential flexibility
  • Demonstrate the Courage to Lead


Start with one of these books and dive into how you want to turn up as a leader. Being an authentic leader is a journey and as Brené says… who you are is how you lead.

If you want to learn more about becoming an authentic leader get in touch with us at and ask us about our very popular leadership program “Authenticity”​ or if you are a Brené fan check out our page on “​Dare to Lead“​ and invite us to work with your leadership team to level up your leadership.

 Author Michelle Holland

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Michelle Holland