The Authentic leadership Paradox Wheel

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, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates.

Do you know someone who might benefit from this information?  Please share this email in the spirit of coaching abundance.    Thank You!


4 responses to “The Authentic leadership Paradox Wheel

  1. Michelle, a nice piece, well done !
    There are a few 12 trait leadership models – if you want a more business outcomes base model try using Denison’s Leadership 360 tool. Like all the the others it’s a percentile based model and has a norm based of tens of thousands…… but uniquely it links the 12 traits to the 6 major metrics of business performance – that sets it apart … by the way (i) Prof Dan Denison is here later this year to talk in SA… let me know if you’d like to meet him? and (ii) you look nice standing on a chair !

    • Thanks Jacques – I’m always thrilled by the abundance attitude – sharing tools that we find valuable. Keep me on the know about Prof Denison – sounds interesting indeed.
      ps. Standing on a chair is a fun pass time – I recommend it for balance and focus 🙂

  2. Dear Michelle, thank you for sharing this.
    This is another great tool to help leaders identify their blind spots.
    I have found that most leaders are blissfully unaware of their blind spots at a junior/middle management level. once they become more senior it suddenly bites them hard.
    I do some part time work in Africa, I left consulting a few years ago to spend more time with my family and it has returned (my passion/hobby is keeping me busy:))
    I am interested to use this on some senior leaders in Blantyre, were can this assessment be done?

    • Welcome back to the passion/hobby 🙂 Yes, I agree with you that leaders are blissfully unaware of their blind spots at a junior/middle management level etc…
      I read in an article this morning “Learning is a function of how people reason about their own behavior”, and we’re always much better at reasoning someone else’s behavior than our own – hence the blind spots.
      I use this tool not directly associated with a formal assessment but as a visual self-measured guide; in a combination of the leader estimating their own scores coupled with 360 feedback that I gather from their stakeholders.
      The Blantyre project sounds interesting – I’m always happy to soundboard ideas.

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