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Authenticity essential for leadership

Authenticity is an essential leadership ingredient, according to Gill Hill, head of people development at Nationwide Building Society.

Speaking at Hay Group's ‘Developing leaders for the organisation of the future’ event, Hill explained that in the face of increased regulation in the financial sector Nationwide has become a strong advocate for the diversification of leadership styles.

“We’re really looking for leaders to be the best versions of themselves,” she told HR magazine at the event. “You get found out if you’re pretending to be someone else. We find leaders are most successful if they come across as genuine; there needs to be trust, and they need to be trusting too.”

During the event’s panel discussion Hill said that emotional intelligence is a predictor of leadership success. “We know leaders are being faced with complex issues not just binary choices,” she said. “Intellectual agility is key.”

David Young, group head of leadership development for BT, spoke about the need for prospective leaders to overcome "personal blockers" in their career paths. BT offers an online tool to help employees understand why they may not yet be achieving their leadership goals. This tool is based on the work of Robert Kegan, author of Immunity to Change.

“Say your improving goal is better listening but in every meeting you find yourself speaking over others. You then need to ask yourself why you do that. You might uncover a fear of seeming incompetent if you don’t speak. You’re worried that your competency may be at stake,” Young told HR magazine.

“In cases like this you can find you have one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brake. Despite your best intentions you can struggle to change. Willpower itself doesn’t work. Psychology offers a really helpful perspective into the world of work, as it’s only by understanding the hidden commitments behind why you behave the way you do that you can change.”

Also explored at the event was the question of whether the value of a distinctive company culture will diminish over time. Head of leadership and talent, UK for Hay Group, Tania Lennon told HR magazine she believes in an increasingly globalised world it will.

“In five years I see companies constantly shifting in response to their environment," she said. "The idea of culture is declining. Companies need to be agile, and a strong culture could get in the way of that."