One of the insights into leadership I have gained through the years is the concept of leading from our own identity. This insight includes recognizing the importance of being who we are not just doing what we do.

So much of the literature on leadership focuses on helping us to be better at doing “stuff”. I have come to believe (supported by some research) in the concept of leading from identity. See, Thomas Karp and T. I. Helgø, “Leadership as Identity Construction: The Act of Leading People in Organisations; A Perspective from the Complexity Sciences,” Journal of Management Development, 28, no. 10 (2009).

I believe that, over time, we develop our personal model of leadership. It includes what we internalize from how we were raised, what is instilled in us by teachers, coaches, mentors, spiritual leaders, and role models, what we glean from leadership books, videos, and conferences, and what we learn from the school of hard knocks and other institutions of learning.

I recently decided to write a book (spoiler alert, shameless plug to follow J) called Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity (available at Amazon.com, of course). It outlines some of the leadership, people, and organizational principles I relied upon to lead an organization to a dramatic improvement.

The goal of the book is not to convince others to use my principles, even though they were effective for me, but to help others develop their own model of leadership. In other words, my aim is to help others be good leaders by being themselves rather than doing good leadership by using someone else’s principles or tips.

Of course, being results in action. The key is to make sure that the goal is to be not to do. Example: when the goal is being good rather than doing good, the resulting behavior meets the spirit as well as the letter of any rules.

Here’s a simple example: Let’s say a theater has a “no food allowed” policy. If the goal is to do good, then we may have a debate about whether gum is defined as a food. If gum is not so defined, then I will chew gum in the theater.

If the goal is to be good, then I won’t bring in gum or anything else, regardless of how it is classified, that might dirty up the theater, i.e., violate the spirit of the policy.

What does being a good leader look like? If you’re willing to share your thoughts, send me a note via the contact form. I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity, as a thank you.