The Power of Authentic Leadership with Adrian Koehler

June 9, 2023

The Power of Authentic Leadership with Adrian Koehler

June 9, 2023

About This Episode

In a recent episode of Brilliant Thoughts with Tristan Ahumada, guest Adrian Koehler discussed the pressing need for a new type of leadership. They delved into the topic of the abundance of individuals in leadership roles who lack the qualities of true leaders. 

The Necessity For a New Type Of Leadership

Adrian explains that the world is yearning for powerful and authentic leadership more than ever before. He pointed out that historically, tough times like wars forced individuals into leadership positions. However, in today's relatively stable environment, many people voluntarily take on leadership roles without the necessary qualities, creating problems for themselves and others.

Adrian referred to the quote, "Weak times create weak men, tough times create tough men," highlighting that society is currently facing a lack of strength, not in physical terms, but in terms of people's thinking. He attributed this weakness to the culture of hyper-political correctness, where people choose to remain silent to avoid controversy and retribution.

By suppressing their thoughts and opinions, individuals diminish themselves and their potential. They either explode in bursts of outrage or limit their vision and commitment to conform to what is socially acceptable. Adrian noted that this phenomenon affects both men and women, with some being stunted by external circumstances and others self-imposing limitations.

However, Adrian emphasized that there have always been heroes who overcome external challenges. He encouraged individuals to embark on a hero's journey, which entails facing suffering, controversy, and insecurity in order to transcend their circumstances. 

Comparing Despair and the Illusion of Perfection

When asked how we can navigate the desire for a better way of living while avoiding the pitfalls of comparison, Adrian Koehler responded by acknowledging that comparing ourselves to others is ingrained in our culture, fueled by social media and the perception of others' seemingly perfect lives. He explains that our internal world can never match our assumptions about someone else's life. Koehler shed light on the concept of "compare despair," where our constant comparisons often lead to feelings of despair and insecurity. He acknowledged that life is tougher than we often admit, and it's essential to recognize and embrace our authentic struggles.

On Setting Up a Vision 

Koehler encourages us to shift our focus from the pursuit of "better" to the exploration of a compelling vision for the future. He emphasized the importance of having a clear aim that motivates and summons us toward personal growth and development. He says that a vision is not a mere relief system for the present, but rather a future worth striving for.

Making Actionable Steps to Achieve Your Long-Term Plans - “I want to think about the future in a way that generates the type of person I want to be right now.”

Tristan and Adrian discussed different planning approaches, ranging from ten-year visions to shorter-term goals. While Koehler acknowledged the value of having a ten-year view, he emphasized the importance of breaking it down into actionable steps applicable to the present. He shared personal anecdotes about envisioning a future ranch with his wife, recognizing that such visions can be both entertaining and relieving. However, he stressed the significance of grounding plans in the present year and taking tangible actions to move closer to desired outcomes.

Shaping the Present by Envisioning Your Future - “How I what I predict is who I become.”

Koehler stresses that future-based language has the power to shape our present actions and behaviors. He cautioned against pessimistic predictions and explained how our brain tends to find evidence to sustain our preconceived notions. Koehler encouraged teams and individuals to hold conversations about what's possible and focus on the potential for change and growth. By acknowledging that we are capable of more than we realize, we can begin to break free from self-imposed limitations.

Lack of Confidence - a hindrance to your leadership potential

Koehler delves into the topic of how a lack of confidence can hinder your leadership potential. He explains that many leaders are caught in a cycle of self-deception, constantly justifying their actions to maintain a façade. Deep down, they are troubled by their inability to live up to their true potential. 

It often seems like the world views exceptional leaders as perfect beings who possess intelligence, charisma, and effectiveness. However, there are times when even these accomplished individuals hold themselves back without anyone noticing.

Although others may not be aware, the leader knows deep down that they are not living up to their full potential, causing inner turmoil and a lack of confidence. This self-doubt can manifest in various ways, such as arrogance, impatience with team members, or even tension in personal relationships. By betraying their own capabilities, leaders unknowingly contribute to their own sense of unease.

He attributed Søren Kierkegaard in his quote "People settle for a level of despair they can tolerate and call it happiness." He further explains that it is important to recognize and overcome our lack of confidence to unlock our true leadership potential

Going All-In Versus the Hustle Culture. - “Hustle Culture is glorified posturing.”

Koehler explains that hustle culture, as it is often portrayed online, can be seen as glorified posturing. From a management perspective, he believes that glorifying long hours and equating them with success misses the point. He emphasizes that the focus should be on results rather than simply appearing busy or hustling. He criticizes the work-life balance concept as a zero-sum game that often leads to families losing out. Instead, Koehler suggests that the center of culture should be the family. He also highlights that hustle culture can be driven by survival instincts, such as the need to look good, feel good, be right, and be in control. He views these as ego-driven needs and cautions against getting caught up in them.

Leadership - On Being Personal, Putting Family First. “I'm helping moms and dads become really great moms and dads and really great business leaders.”

Koehler expresses that hustle culture tends to focus on the wrong things. He highlighted the importance of family as the core of our culture, pointing out that while there are days when work demands more of our time, there are also days when we should dedicate ourselves to being present with our loved ones.

To illustrate this point, Adrian shared a heartwarming anecdote about a conversation he had with his young children. Sitting in the hot tub with his nine and seven-year-old kids, he explained why he would be leaving on a four-day leadership intensive trip. Rather than framing it as merely work-related, he conveyed his true purpose – he explained to his kids that he is going to help parents become exceptional leaders while being devoted moms and dads.

Adrian wanted his children to understand his mission, ensuring that they wouldn't perceive his absence as a mere work obligation. By integrating his work and personal life, he aimed to create a holistic approach where his family supports his endeavors, and his work understands his family commitments.

On the management level, Koehler emphasized the importance of seeing team members as individuals rather than mere tools to accomplish tasks. By showing genuine interest and understanding, leaders can build trust and foster a sense of emotional connection. This personal touch not only helps retain top talent but also creates a supportive work environment where employees feel valued and motivated to excel.

Adrian highlighted the need for intentional leadership in a world where urgency and deliverables often take precedence. He encouraged leaders to schedule recurring one-on-one conversations or even leave a voicemail once a month to let team members know they are genuinely cared for. These small acts of personal connection contribute to strong leadership and allow individuals to thrive in a complex and ever-changing world.

Embracing the Cactus - How do you get better at embracing the lows?

Tristan and Adrian delved into the significance of embracing the lows, offering a fresh perspective on navigating life's ups and downs. They discussed the importance of acknowledging our interpretations and the power they hold over our experiences. Recognizing that our perception shapes our reality is the first step in transforming our approach to challenging situations.

Koehler emphasized the need to challenge our initial reactions and explore new interpretations. Instead of labeling unfavorable circumstances as purely negative, we can ask ourselves how they might benefit us or what lessons they offer. This shift in mindset allows us to move beyond fear and avoidance, enabling us to engage with difficulties in a constructive manner.

Koehler then shared his personal experiences of overcoming hardships and how he learned to take responsibility for his contributions to challenging situations. By embracing accountability, he found that trust and growth were nurtured within his relationships and teams.

The concept of "hugging the cactus" was introduced as a metaphor for leaning into discomfort and honestly examining our role in breakdowns. In a culture that often shies away from accountability due to fear of judgment and shame, Koehler emphasized the importance of engaging in the necessary conversations that arise from challenging situations. By doing so, we can uncover valuable insights and address the underlying causes of breakdowns.

Koehler further acknowledged that embracing the lows requires ongoing effort and introspection. It's not a one-time solution but an ongoing practice of self-awareness and personal growth. He also acknowledged the prevalence of victim mentality in society and emphasized the transformative power of taking ownership and refusing to externalize blame.

Where to find Adrian Koehler

To find out more about Adrian Koehler, you can visit his Instagram profile at @adrian.k. You can also visit his personal website at 

You can also check Adrian's company website at where they offer negotiation training and provide insights into different negotiation styles and offer training to help individuals improve their negotiation skills.

Adrian also hosts the Naked Leadership Podcast, which has been running for three to four years. The podcast explores topics related to the heart, mind, and soul of a leader, focusing on the essence of becoming a leader and the principles underlying leadership. You can listen to the podcast on your preferred podcast platform.

Lastly, he will also be at The Revenant, a four-day personal leadership intensive accelerant held in Hawaii. This program is designed to help participants build trust and confidence in themselves, have a better impact on others, and learn how to shift relationships and outcomes. It is an experiential program with long days of approximately 12 hours. You can visit for more details.

DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.

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