Today we’re interviewing Amelia Newbury, the Chief Operating Officer at the Authentic Leadership Institute.
The Authentic Leadership Institute is focused on helping leaders discover and tap into what makes them unique. It’s a program designed to harness the power of purpose and deploy it into the business world, so that we can tackle the biggest, hairiest problems we are all facing. In this episode, Amelia shares:
- The institute’s definition of authentic leadership
- Why authentic leadership and purpose matter now more than ever
- Stories and examples proving that purpose drives profitability, positively impacts health and well-being, and creates stronger organizations, especially as we race towards a more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world
- And finally, a powerful question you can ask yourself if you desire to discover and tap into your own unique purpose
Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy this fantastic interview with Amelia Newbury.
- 2:28 – Who is Amelia Newbury?
- 4:25 – Is the concept of authenticity in leadership still in its infancy?
- 6:09 – The definition(s) of authenticity
- 7:17 – What does the ALI actually do, and how?
- 13:41 – Expectations vs. reality when working with organizations
- 15:22 – Why authentic leadership is so critical today
- 21:33 – The structure of purpose
- 23:58 – Getting stuck in the day-to-day
- 25:54 – Awakenings by leaders who have gone through the program—and returning to organizations that have lost their true north
- 29:01 – Prescriptive leadership advice from the program
- 31:20 – Is there proof this stuff works?
- 34:36 – Clarity of purpose through the program
- 46:22 – How leaders balance the need for creating long-term sustainability, versus those that are always under the microscope of delivering short-term, quarterly results.
- 48:40 – Diversity in age ranges of the leaders they serve
- 56:42 – The one book with the biggest impact on Amelia’s life
- 58:00 – Amelia’s advice for how leaders can find their true north
- Authentic Leadership Institute
- Nick Craig’s HBR article “From Purpose to Impact™”
- HBS case “Unilever’s Paul Polman: Developing Global Leaders”
- HBR questionnaire / survey for quality of life at work
- HBR article on the power of meeting your employees’ needs (as uncovered in the survey)
- Health Benefits of Purpose (Rush Medical Center)
- Bob Schaffer’s book
Amelia Newbury Interview
Who is Amelia Newbury?
It’s a tricky question of who anybody is. Such a deep onion to unwrap! First off, I’m based in Boston, and I work with Nick Craig at the Authentic Leadership Institute as the COO. I’m also married, and I have two children, an 11-year-old and a six-year-old. They keep me on my toes.
The work that I do that the institute is part of a long succession of passion and lead-driven engagements for me, where I really focus on companies and organizations that I believe are doing well over doing good. At the institute, we’re doing a lot of good in changing the conversation about leadership. I’ve also worked with Harvard Business Publishing for a long period of time, in healthcare, helping to change the way doctors and nurses make decisions, and prior to that was over at the Monitor Group.
What does the Authentic Leadership Institute actually do, and how do you do it?
The purpose of the institute is to wake up those who will wake up the many by inspiring them to discover their purpose—their individual leadership purpose. And equipping them to lead authentically. Many folks believe they have to be a different person at work, when they think about who they are as a leader in their community, in their family, a leader at work (in a professional setting). They see themselves as three different people, and sometimes explicitly talk about it: “I can be like that at home, but I can’t be like that here.”
And that separation is artificial. That’s what we’re trying to take the blinders off of, if you will. The strengths you have in your home environment, the ease with which you execute those strengths, that power is available to you in any leadership capacity—no matter what the context. There is something to unlock and bring forward, and, by the way, there’s a fairly simple way to unlock it so that each time you enter a leadership challenge, you’re doing it from the place of best performance.
Why is this concept of authentic leadership so important in the world we’re living in today?
I think it’s not just why is it important today, but why is it getting more important tomorrow? Purpose-driven leaders and authentic expression of that purpose is the core to handling uncertainty. Furthermore, uncertainty is all around us. This idea that we have a rational, predictable, very linear world full of simple situations with the stability of working for a large company—that is so yesterday. Whether it’s a volcano in Iceland, or whether it’s ISIS—it doesn’t matter. There was a train crash in Hoboken, and the whole world is aware of it instantly. Thus, any instability or any uncertainty in one part of the world has a ripple effect on all parts of the world.
When you look at leaders in this new space, you are focusing on developing leadership traits that are about the self-awareness and the understanding of individual. They don’t know much, but they know who they are and in a situation where things really have hit the fan, they can rely on their strengths, their sense of purpose and the relationships they’ve built with their team because they have been expressing themselves as an authentic leader.
Less than 20% of the leaders we’re talking about here are actually clear on their purpose. Or can communicate it in any way that has meaning to their team. That is the gap we’re trying to bridge.
In the organizations that you’ve worked with, is there the realization that—as they’re sending their leaders through this type of program—they lack clarity of why they exist? Maybe as the company grows and scales, and levels of complexity and more people get involved, this focus on driving for financial results becomes their MO and they forget what they actually stand for. Is that a common occurrence?
I think it’s more common than we’d like. Purpose and authentic leadership impact them by bringing the story back to the local area. Let’s talk about what purpose means to the individual, let’s talk about how they’re going to manifest their purpose while they’re doing the work that drives company profits. And then let’s talk as a team how they should structure it so the full team is more engaged in supporting each other as they do work to drive that purpose. We find where we actually do this is literally grassroots. In terms of the planning and impact, we find that there is an interesting innovation impact. We see folks getting very creative for new thoughts on how to move the needle on margin numbers, cost cutting. That’s in ways that also allow them to live their purpose.
What book has had the biggest impact on your life?
I’ve always been enamored with Fahrenheit 451—and it’s very deeply tied to what happens if you feel conflicted about purpose. And embracing your strengths and presence in society. In terms of non-fiction, Bob Schaffer’s book on high-impact consulting is a go-to. I love it, and I feel all leaders should read it.
What can you share for leaders to begin to think about their own purpose and start tapping into what makes them authentic? And how to find their true north?
A nice proxy question—something to start thinking around purpose: If you left your job and the position you hold tomorrow, and another person with an equal level of skills stepped into your role, what would the people on your team miss?
Listen to this Amelia Newbury podcast interview and more episodes from the Built On Purpose Podcast at https://yscouts.com/podcast.
Y Scouts, a leadership search firm, finds purpose-aligned and performance-proven leaders to help organizations achieve their missions faster. Ready to supercharge your leadership search and get the right person in your organization? Contact Y Scouts.