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Since I started teaching leadership, I have worked to bring forth authentic leadership in my clients. The type of leadership in which the leader is true about who they really are. An authentic leader isn’t afraid to be seen in their truth, he or she is real, and open and not afraid to be vulnerable. They know their life’s story matters, and they are willing to share how they’ve overcome difficulties to be who they are today.

The journey into authentic leadership

In most cases, becoming an authentic leader is plenty to work on. Many people in management or leadership roles start off their journey putting on a big ‘Leadership coat’, basically dressing up as the type of leader they know from movies and the people in leadership positions in their youth: someone who has total control of the situation, never doubts, is strong and powerful always.

To become more open and honest from that place is a journey in itself, which for the past decade or so, has been our focus as leaders.

Authentic leadership is not enough anymore

However, I find that, especially since the millennials hit the workforce, authenticity in leaders is no longer enough. More and more I am asked the question how I see authentic leadership in relation to people who have a bad temper, are power hungry, begrudge others their success, or are just unkind.

And even though there are many ways you can spin this, and I certainly have done that, there is relevance to that question, right?  When these people are being their authentic self, it doesn’t necessarily look good for the rest of us. It’s all well and good that they are authentically grumpy or nasty to us, but wouldn’t we rather have them pretend to be a nice person, than be an authentic ass?

If someone isn’t yet whole, maybe authentic leadership isn't the ultimate answer.
Why authentic leadership isn’t always the answer

We all experience things, over the course of our lives, that hurt us. We are all challenged. I believe each of us has one or two bigger life topics that come up for us again and again, inviting us to heal on ever deeper levels. In leadership, as I have argued before, personal development is a necessity. As leaders, we need to heal whatever needs healing. It’s our responsibility. Because if we don’t, we project our past hurts onto the people we are connected with in the present, e.g. our partner, our children, or our team.

So, without that focus on healing our past, authentic leadership can actually cause a lot of trouble.

Beyond authentic leadership

What I have seen in my clients time and time again, is that once they’ve worked through their past, healed what needed healing, looked at what needed looking at, they move beyond just authentic leadership. Instead of their unresolved stuff running the show and leaking unto undeserving people, they can be fully present and show up for what is really happening in the moment.

Instead of reacting to what their team or the situation is bringing to them, they start responding from a place of wholeness. That way, they stop adding to the fire, and have the ability to zoom out and ask the question: What does this situation really need?

Beyond Authentic Leadership is Sovereign Leadership
What is Sovereign Leadership?

So let’s first staid what sovereign leadership is not. Even though the term may bring up thoughts of borders, protectionism, boundaries, and shutting out the other, this is not what Sovereign Leadership is about.

It is actually the exact opposite.

A sovereign leader, is a sovereign person. And a sovereign person is someone who has faced their shadows and their past, and came out victorious. Sovereignty in people starts with getting the internal being in order. And from that position of inner strength and connectedness, sovereign leaders connect with others and start doing.

Full awareness, full effectiveness

Sovereign people are so aware of what triggers them and why, that they can control their responses in a way that harms no-one. They take ownership, which is something else entirely than ignoring or hiding. They are open about what triggers them, but in a sort of detached way, that allows them to speak about it, instead of it swallowing them and taking over.

They have gained mastery of themselves, and because of that, they can be fully, undividedly available for the things that they are actually responsible for, like elevating the people on their team and bringing goodness into the world.

That is what I mean by Sovereign Leadership.


So after reading this, do you feel you could improve your inner awareness, heal your past, and work through your shadow? Do you feel ready to start working towards sovereignty?

We offer one-on-one executive coaching and love to work with people who are ready to really take ownership of who they are. Please read more about our offerings here.


Rosalie Puiman is the founder of The Sovereign Leader and the author of The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution. She works with executives and founding teams to bring forth effective, impactful and purpose-driven success.

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