How women experience authentic leadership

How women experience authentic leadership throughout the adult developmental stages


Natasha Mantler from Saybrook University presents about women’s authentic leadership which will be considered from an adult development theory perspective with a contextual point of view.

Authentic leadership has mainly been considered from a non-gendered lens without incorporating context. Adult development theory provides a consciousness framework for the investigation of authentic leadership, while women and leadership contribute a contextual perspective. Investigating how women experience authentic leadership throughout the adult developmental stages provides an opportunity to address the current limitations found within the authentic leadership literature. This thesis will be discussed, followed by participant contributions in a process-focused forum.



  • Authentic Leadership
  • Women and Leadership
  • Adult Developmental Theory

 – Where do they meet and why is it important?


It’s not just what you do, but also how you think!

Read an article from Natasha published in Integral Leadership Review about how our brain works when it comes to desire to change. 

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.”
(Leonard Cohen)

This beautiful quote from the infamous Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist, reminds us of the simpler nature of change. And yet, as leadership coaches and human beings, we have also experienced, known and understood that true change, embodied change, enduring change, is often difficult to attain. How can both opposing perspectives be true?


At first glance, this quote elicits a more behavioural stance to change. Think and act positive, and good things will happen. However, as I continue to contemplate the phrase, a more integrated perspective begins to emerge. This came by way of a detour into neuroscience.

Over the past hundreds of millions of years, the human brain has evolved to detect negative information faster than positive information, as a method for survival. Hanson (2009) explains that “your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls and reacts to unpleasant experiences, as we’ve said, it’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”.

We also know that when neurons fire together, they wire together and mental activity actually creates new neural structures (Hebb, 1949; LeDoux, 2003). Therefore, not only does the brain predominantly scan for negative information, these patterns then become reinforced, which provides an explanation for why positive behavioural change can often be difficult to achieve.

How does neuroscience then speak to the more simple nature of change expressed by Leonard Cohen?


Fleeting thoughts, visions and feelings can also leave a lasting impression on the neural pathways of the brain (Hanson, 2009). And they can be positive thoughts, visions and feelings! In order to counteract the negative bias of the brain, Hanson’s (2009)

remedy is to experience the positive when it arises, without negating the negative: become the observer of the negativity while holding a positive thought, vision, and feeling in the forefront of your brain.

Therefore, every time you experience the good, you build a little bit of neural structure, which will gradually change your brain and how you feel and act, in far-reaching ways (Hanson, 2009).

good-1123013_1280Both perspectives are therefore true! On one hand, it is difficult to change the negative bias of the brain, which often translates into unwanted behaviour. On the other hand, simply acting and experiencing the positive changes the brain, wires positive neurons together, thus producing enduring change!

Of course, this becomes more complicated when life conditions become exacerbated by global systemic cultural and economic forces. The good news again, is that there are a great many positive experiences to be had in the collaborative endeavour of co-creating a thriving, sustainable humanity, individually and collectively, inside and out.

Leadership Coaching Tip: Remember neuroscience for facilitating change. The brain has a negative bias that was utilized to ensure our survival. As we begin to further develop as human beings, we can learn to cultivate change by reinforcing positive neural pathways, leading to desired embodied and enduring change.

-Natasha Mantler, Integral Leadership Review- 


Natasha Mantler, MBA, BA in Psychology. She is a mentor, executive coach, facilitator and trans-disciplinary academic. Her current research focus is women and leadership from an adult developmental perspective. She lives with her husband, Eric Reynolds in Toronto, Canada.

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