“All of us have the spark of leadership in us, whether it is in business, in government, or as a non-profit volunteer. The challenge is to understand where we can use our leadership gifts to serve others” -Ann Fudge  

Hellooo Ann Fudge and thank you for this quote that fits like a nose in the head in Finnish (fits like a glove in English language haha) with this week’s topic: authentic leadership! Especially why we need it and more empathic way of leading as well as emotional intelligence.

Last post was about ways to empower athletes and coaches (if you haven’t read that one, you can find it here). If you wonder why I wrote that piece, I think coaches and athletes should be on the same side, not on the opposing sides and I am hoping to remind all of the parties what is important for the performance – it often is connected to wellbeing. And so if we add the club management to this delicious soup too, my crazy idealism still won’t change. We should all be on the same side. Ideally.


We should all get the most out of ourselves, as athletes, coaches, teams, bosses, organizations and so on to get optimal results.

Does it always go this way? Yeah, I see you laughing. No, it does not. I know.

Sometimes it seems like a war between some or all of the parties. But I don’t know many who enjoy that war. I don’t know any players personally who think that tug-of-war is the environment where they are bursting out of the excitement to develop to be the best version of themselves because they feel so safe and trusted. The thoughts of “I hate being here, I hate playing for people that don’t value me” or “It does not feel safe to be me” are not very helpful right?

If we want to maximize the capacity or potential in the sports… Would it be easier to max out the potential by leading people by fear or by support? If we think about fear, yes, it definitely will drive human beings to a certain extent but is that the optimal state? I would suggest that so far what I have seen, learned and experienced, is that fearless humans go further. By fearless I mean those who have nothing to prove, there is no stopping them. There are no fearsome thoughts like “will I get fired if I make errors today?” or “I can’t fail or I am gonna be yelled at”.

Plus, fear is the pre-state that leads to “fight or flight” mode and because sports is just one part of life, it is something we choose to do. People don’t choose to stay in the organizations and teams where fear is present. They would rather fly away if and when they have a chance. Which is not great for long-term success plans.

Personality in sports emails

So, how would we feel about authentic leadership? I can tell that I got so much more out of myself when I was led by leaders who cared, understood and trusted me. Would you want an environment where you can be yourself, you are trusted and cared about?

Very many athletes would choose that environment. Maybe some are now thinking that oh yeah that would be cool but ain’t gonna happen sweetheart.

Well I can tell that the change is coming already. Authentic leadership, emotional intelligence and empathic leading are happening. Those are real words, proven to work and brought success by many. If you don’t master those yet, maybe it is time to start learning so you can get people to flourish around you.

I picked three little nuggets to help with the start of the flourishing or understanding some of it :). These are from a book called Authentic Leadership. (This book was collection of articles about the topic by Harvard Business Review, big recommendations btw!)

  • When females are showing emotions and care, it is still often perceived more negative than when males do it. Females are thus considered to be emotional, less rational and therefore, less capable of leading. 

It is totally understandable that this is the prevalent world, but it doesn’t mean it should not change. We need to start realizing that females are still capable of making rational decisions and competent in leading even if they show more emotions. If you think about it, males might feel the same emotions but they might hide them. So what is the difference? Both might feel the same empathy, but females might express it more often. Should not be that big of a deal as it sometimes is.

  • Discovering your authentic leadership requires a commitment to developing yourself. You must devote yourself to a lifetime of realizing your potential, like top athletes or musicians.

I love this because it simply means that there is no finish line in authentic leadership and it does not happen overnight. You can get better at it one day at a time though, but you really need to develop and work on those skills too. You have to know what you are standing for in this life and work from that space, relentlessly, even when it feels hard.

  • Authentic leadership does not mean same as expressing all of your raw pain to your peers. It is more the understanding of what they are going through and empathizing them, e.g. that you have been through what they are going through now. They most likely do not want to see you bleeding, they rather see the scar as a proof of hope that it is possible to make through this but you understand how they feel now. 

I wanted to bring this up because too often authenticity and also vulnerability are considered more as crying in front of everyone and exposing too much for the peers. I am so happy to disappoint you and tell that that’s not it. You can keep your wounds to yourself and keep healing them on your own. The point is that you just have the capability of understanding what is it like to be in their shoes. Being in their shoes as themselves, not as you though. That is good to remember too since you and someone else is a different thing. If you want to be hugged in the middle of a crisis, somebody else might not. You need to know better and more.

You need to know yourself. You need to know yourself so you can get to know others as well. That is one part of how you develop an understanding of how others work. 

Authentic leadership in sports


I truly think authentic leadership across the sports environment is one of the ways to get closer to optimal environment in order to optimize performance.

And that is how I get back to the quote where we started. We all have that spark of leadership in us, we just need to discover it in ourselves and we should try to find it in others too so they can start leading themselves and others. That is the challenging part, to find the field for leading for some.

But the “reward” is the biggest trophy – you become the best kind of a leader who has inspired and empowered others to lead themselves courageously so they can live their life to the fullest and go after their goals fearlessly, trusting themselves.

What could be a better way to enhance the optimal performance than to get the people to trust themselves? Realizing they have the ability, confidence and trust to lead themselves? Might be worth of a try. 😉

Ps. I am thinking of writing a series about authentic leadership in sports and next part would be more about what authentic leadership is. If you have stories to share, wishes what to cover etc., drop them in my email saanamkoljonen@gmail.com . 🙂

Ps part 2. A good start for authenticity is self-awareness where Sports Capacity Assessment and Extended DISC personal assessments could be a huge help! 

Thank you for reading <3 



Dare to Lead, Brene Brown daretolead.brenebrown.com(opens in a new tab)

DISCOVERING YOUR AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP, HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW https://socialscience.fas.harvard.edu/files/socialscience/files/discovering_your_authentic_leadership_-_harvard_business_review.pdf

Authentic Leadership book (and the collection of emotional intelligence) by Harward Business Review, https://www.amazon.com/HBR-Emotional-Intelligence-Boxed-Books/dp/1633696219/ref=sr_1_1?crid=I15Z6R7OJ2MA&dchild=1&keywords=emotional+intelligence+harvard+business+review&qid=1594238307&s=books&sprefix=emotional+intelligence+har%2Cstripbooks%2C171&sr=1-1

The Truth About Authentic Leaders by Bill George https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/the-truth-about-authentic-leaders

How emotional intelligence became a key leadership skill by Andrea Owens https://hbr.org/2015/04/how-emotional-intelligence-became-a-key-leadership-skill