Stuart Ross

24 January, 2014, by Kelly Cookson

Authentic Leadership and Entrepreneurship

Speaker: Stuart Ross, Managing Director of High Growth.

What is authentic leadership?

Stuart kicked off the talk with a definition of authentic leadership:

“An approach to leadership that emphasises building the leader’s legitimacy through honest relationships with followers which value their input and are built on an ethical foundation.”

Being an authentic leader is a social skill which is grown and developed over time. It’s also about being true to yourself and living and breathing your values on a daily basis.

Stuart tells us there are six components which distinguish authentic leaders from other leaders:

1. Purpose
A reason to get out of bed in the morning, a conviction to drive their being.

2. Vision
They know where they are going. They have clarity.

3. Live by values
They understand what their values are and what the priority of these values are.

4. Self awareness
They understand the impact that they have on other people and are aware of how they come across to others.

5. Sacrifice egos
It’s all about the company and the company’s success.

6. Persuasion masters
Authentic leaders are contagious. They attract people to their vision and their purpose.

Stuart referenced the book by Jim Collins, Good to Great, which talks about the 5 levels of leadership:

Level 1: Highly capable individual

Level 2: Contributing team member

Level 3: Competent manager

Level 4: Effective leader

Level 5: Great leader

The great leaders are those that build companies that last. Great leaders sacrifice their ego.

Authentic leaders trust in their teams. This attracts individuals to work with them and makes individuals work at their best.

Next we looked at a typical curve diagram of entrepreneurs. Some are great and some are terrible. Stuart argues that great entrepreneurs are missionaries as opposed to mercenaries. They have a clear purpose, know what they are living for and where they want to go. They are out to change the world. Not so successful entrepreneurs tend to be in it just for the money.

Stuart emphasised that to grow a business you need to become a more and more authentic leader. The six skills listed above will help you to be that authentic leader.

What’s the difference between an effective leader and a poor leader?

Effective leaders (the entrepreneurs), set the vision and then explain how it is going to be achieved. They then recruit the right people to help them achieve that vision. Level 5 leaders first get “the right people on the bus” – it’s more of a team approach than individual.

Stuart believes there are two types of leaders: Diminishers and Multipliers.

This is a concept developed by Liz Wiseman in her book Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter.

Time for some audience participation! Who has worked for a diminisher – someone you almost resented working for and did not respect? What were their characteristics?

  • Selfish
  • Controlling – micromanagers
  • Closed to new ideas
  • Stole ideas
  • Took all the credit
  • Team worked in silos
  • Afraid of growth
  • Didn’t want the team to work together
  • Lacked enthusiasm

Has anyone worked for someone that is a multiplier? You are inspired and motivated by them. What were their characteristics?

  • Great belief in themselves and in you
  • See the bigger picture
  • Gave opportunities
  • Allowed team to contribute and valued that contribution
  • Trusted you
  • Encouraged you to find your own ideas
  • Understood team’s motivations
  • Never panicked – gravitas
  • No wrong answers

Multipliers are the most authentic leaders

Stuart argues that most entrepreneurs are initially diminishers, driving things through no matter what. This is essential behaviour when starting a business. However, this attitude becomes a barrier to growth and their leadership style needs to change to allow the business to grow. They need to become multipliers to move forwards.

Some takeaways and key messages from today’s seminar:

  • Long term success and happiness is built upon authenticity.
  • The ability to be authentic will be dependent on where an organisation is on its lifecycle.
  • Over time, an authentic leader will enhance entrepreneurial activity in an organisation.
  • Lack of authenticity will eventually lead to an organisation’s demise.


The audience said:

“The approach was excellent and the audience participation was pleasing”

“Good presentation and very interactive”

“This is the second breakfast meeting I’ve been to and I will be coming to more”

“I have recommended this event to several people – very good event”

Posted in Ingenuity Knowledge ExchangeLeadership