Just as important as knowing who we are is knowing who we are not.
When our actions do not align with our identity leaders create challenges for ourselves. In my own experiences and based on my observations of others, leaders run into trouble when we try to be someone else or when we try to apply the latest leadership “techniques”.
In some cases, this disconnect between our identity and our leadership behavior occurs because we are too fearful, too insecure, or too inadequate (in our own minds) to be who we truly are.
In my first assignment at the manager level, my boss had to pull me aside after a few months to say, “You don’t have to tell them you’re in charge; they know you’re in charge.” Out of my own insecurity about who I was as a leader I had been acting in a way (too directive, too controlling) that was inconsistent with my identity (which includes being easygoing). Needless to say, I was not leading well.
In other cases, the disconnect between our identity and our leadership behaviors occur because we are told, through leadership literature, that we need to behave in a certain way to be a successful leader.
It would not be hard to imagine a young preacher from Houston observing the success of another young Texas preacher in Dallas and saying, “He’s so successful, I am going to lead like he does.” But it would be hard to imagine Joel Osteen being as successful as he is today if he had tried to behave like T.D. Jakes. They each have their own style rooted and grounded in his own identity, yet each is hugely successful.
So for those of us who don’t fit the “classic” leadership model take heart; we can be true to our identity and still be good leaders influencing people to good outcomes.
If you’re willing to share, please let me know what you like best from leading according to your own unique style of leadership. Send me a note via the contact form found at the About You tab. I will send you an excerpt from my book, Transforming: The Power of Leading from Identity, as a thank you.