Leadership Remix


As the global director of coaching services and assessment portfolio at the Center for Creative Leadership, Douglas Riddle has spent his career assessing effective coaching philosophies. Riddle manages nearly 400 professional coaches and continues to provide thought leadership in the field, speaking and presenting papers at major conferences around the world.

Riddle recently spoke with Chief Learning Officer. Below are excerpts from the interview.

How do you feel about all leadership philosophies being copies of other philosophies?

“Copy” is a hugely simplified description of how we form attitudes, practices and behaviors. We are always incorporating what we see and hear in what we do. But it is better to think about rolling a ball of snow to make a snowman. You pick up stuff everywhere along the way and what emerges is much more than what it was. Or cooking. Bread bears little resemblance to the water, flour, yeast, salt and oil that went into it.

What makes a good leadership style authentic?

Leadership is about engagement with people. Too much attention to style interferes with the direct, immediate engagement with other people. In fact, any effort to develop a style is inauthentic. Authenticity is the product of the give and take of real relationships in which each person is shaped by his or her own intention and habits and the responses of others. Trying sabotages authenticity.

However, adapting (which can be difficult) to what one learns in the give and take of dealing with other people is worth the effort. Going against the grain to get better results is not inauthentic. Authenticity is only one part of leadership. Effectiveness and impact on the organization is necessary, too.

How might young leaders or managers begin to determine what they want their leadership style to be?

A better question is whom do you want to influence you? What leaders make a positive difference for their organizations? No effort is required to copy someone else. Paying attention to successful leaders and increasing your awareness of how they work is enough.

Is there such a thing as a unique leadership style or is everyone’s leadership style just a combination of previous influential leaders?

Just a combination? Everything we do is a combination of our unique DNA-initiated self and the multiple experiences and influences we have from all our experiences. There is no such thing as a leadership style that is not unique. Our challenge is always to make good choices about the kinds of leadership lessons we expose ourselves to.

What leadership characteristics are most important in 2014?

We need leaders at all levels who can deal realistically with their own strengths and limitations. Authentic leadership is ethical leadership in that the leader cares as much about how results will be achieved as about the results themselves. The day of the wheelers and dealers making back-room agreements with cronies is over, and leaders need to be able to work in the light, because everything they do will soon be illuminated.

Secondly, we need leaders who think globally, who treasure the emerging diversity of the human community, and who are committed to liberating the talents and encouraging the enthusiasm of people of all ages, ethnicities, nations and genders. Leaders who want to control their little fiefdom or be more important than someone else are dinosaurs, and their extinction is imminent.

Eric Short is an editorial intern at Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.