Leaders stand out.
Even if it’s not ‘who you really are', it is easy for people to make up stories about who you are as a leader based upon the behaviours that they see. People have no way of seeing beneath the surface, and rely on the signals you give off (on purpose and unconsciously) for forming an impression of you.
Being a great leader is about deciding on your ‘leadership identity', and creating that in your business.
It is about consciously considering the version of you that you want to project, and projecting that as your leadership ‘identity' throughout your organisation.
If you asked 10 people, what would they say about your leadership? How would they describe you as a leader?
People seek certainty and consistency. Uncertainty and surprise cause people to be on edge, or even defensive. By being consistent and providing people with certainty about who you are as a leader, the people you lead can be comfortable and reassured. This means that as you lead them, they don't need to spend time and effort attempting to ‘guess' which version of you will show up, how you will behave, or how you will respond. They can simply get on with delivering high performance.
This presupposes that we have defined the ‘identity' that we want to project as leader. Too often leaders are victims of their circumstances, their emotions and their fears, and have no clear identity that they project (except, perhaps, the identity of being unstable or unpredictable). Great leaders provide certainty, and provide predictable responses regardless of their emotions, fears or circumstances.
To develop your leadership identity, it is critical to:
• Be self-aware
• Have a definition of the leadership identity that would be valuable
• Be great at self-management to deliver this identity into the business
Self awareness is the first critical step. By understanding how we behave, how we respond, what our strengths are, what triggers us, what we are passionate about, what our weaknesses are and how we really see ourselves (our self-identity), we are able to make decisions about what serves us and what doesn't.
By being self-aware in any moment, we can notice when we are triggered by something that is happening, when our self-identity is threatened, when we are out of our depth, what we feel and the habitual behaviours that emerge. This allows us to notice and then choose our responses and behaviours.
The second step is to have a definition of what valuable leadership in your current context would look like. What behaviours will help create certainty, inspire action, and enhance performance? Too often, people can be self-aware, but have no ‘model' of what they want their leadership to look like, so they have something positive to aspire to.
A positive model of leadership has to be context dependant and authentic. That is, appropriate for the circumstances and culture, but also aligned to who you are as a person, considering your beliefs, personal values and purpose.
By having this model in place, leaders can move to the third step — acting against it to drive performance. Being aware of how you want to act and comparing it to how you are acting, allows you to correct yourself and continue to express the best version of your ‘leadership identity' that suits for that circumstance.
No one is perfect, and everyone gets triggered at times. Simply be aware, respond in the best and most authentic way that you can, and get back to projecting the leadership identity that will make the difference. Your leadership identity develops over time, and is reinforced by consistency and authenticity.
How do you want to be identified as a leader?