John Glenn once said, “I’m not interested in my legacy. I made up my word: ‘live-acy.’ I’m more interested in living.”
And live he did. John Glenn passed away today at 95 here in Columbus, Ohio. He was a true American hero, a Senator, an astronaut that inspired many throughout the world. He was the first American to orbit the earth in 1962. Years later, in 1998, he became the oldest person in space.
Learning to be an effective, influential leader is a lifelong goal for most of us. That’s why I read all I can from as many different sources as possible.
Coach, consultant, and speaker Paul Larsen believes that anyone can become a more powerful leader. His new book, Find Your Voice as a Leader, offers a model to help everyone become a better leader. Paul’s many corporate roles, including Chief Human Resources Officer for a $3 billion organization, makes him an ideal teacher. I recently asked him to share his experience and the research in his new book.
“Speak with intent so that you can lead with vision.” –Paul Larsen
As an executive coach, I partner with leaders across all industries and within all types of organizations. I have found that a resulting impact of the politics and the normative structures of organizations is that the creative talents, or voices, of leaders are stifled into an expected pattern of behavior. Leaders learn quickly that to succeed is to “go with the flow” and not make waves. Their unique voice can be easily silenced.
Thus, many leaders get lost in the noise of today’s chaotic business environment. They remain quiet instead of speaking up, even when they have an opinion. They follow someone else’s decision instead of doing what they really want to do. They let the chatter in their head get the best of them, and they end up second guessing every action or step they take. Or they remain with the status quo instead of taking any action at all. They hide behind others instead of making their own decisions.
To “find your voice as a leader” is to create a compelling and unique leadership brand by:
– Discovering your critical leadership VALUES;
– Creating a compelling vision to get the OUTCOMES you desire;
– Building relationships with INFLUENCE and credibility;
– Making decisions that reveal your COURAGE to take a stand;
Your values are your core beliefs and ideals that guide your decisions, your worldview, your insights, your actions, and your communications. Your values are the principles you believe are important in the way you live and work. They determine your priorities, and, deep down, they are the measures you use to tell if your life is turning out the way you want it to. When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. This is the primary reason identifying your values is so important. Values exist, whether you recognize them or not. Yet, your leadership impact will be much more confident and stronger when you know and acknowledge your values and when you make plans and decisions that honor them.
What happens when our values are in conflict?
When your actions and beliefs match your values, life is usually good— you’re satisfied and content. However, when the environment and the accompanying actions and beliefs don’t align with your values, life feels out of sorts, and it can be a real source of discontent and unhappiness. This misalignment of our values is one of the core sources of dis-engagement at work and occurs on a very regular basis. We make compromises on a daily basis, and within our corporate environment, we make compromises as they pertain to values when matched against the values of the organization. But when these compromises are made on a consistent basis and/or the compromises create a very large “values gap” between the individual and the organization, this can result in a feeling of dis-engagement and lack of commitment. And it will not be solved until the individual decides to take deliberate action on this compromise and ask, “Is this the type of environment that will provide me the ability to do my best work or do I need to plan for a change?”
How does identifying your values set you apart from other leaders?
We are all governed by a set of values that act as our “inner GPS.” Our values govern our decisions, our judgments, our communication and our overall worldview. They shape who we are. Leaders who identify their core set of values and lead out front with their values are more confident, more courageous and more influential versus leaders who do not. Values are more than just a “set of words on a laminated card,” they are the core DNA of every leader and are the ingredients of the legacy each leader leaves behind.
You have a personal leadership identity that has the potential to influence and motivate others. Achieving results and driving others to a common vision are within your reach when you focus on that uniqueness.
What you need is to think about your differentiators.
One of the reasons I study leaders and various leadership styles is because each of us can learn something from the greats while moving toward our own uniqueness.
Danielle Harlan, PhD is the Founder & CEO of the Center for Advancing Leadership and Human Potential. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University and has taught courses at both Stanford Graduate School of Business and U.C. Berkeley Extension’s Corporate and Professional Development program.
I recently asked her about her new research, focusing specifically on her concepts of a personal leadership identity.
“Each of us possesses the innate potential to make a meaningful impact in the world.” –Danielle Harlan
Personal Leadership Identity (PLI) is the unique combination of qualities and talents that make you unique and distinctive as an individual and that you can easily and naturally draw upon in order to enhance your leadership effectiveness.
The example that I share in The New Alpha is about a new manager who struggled as a “stern and commanding” leader (which matched the “image” that he had in his mind of how good leaders should act) but had a breakthrough when he identified his PLI, which was actually the total opposite of this. As soon as he found his “real” self, his leadership effectiveness increased dramatically.
The big idea here is that many of us have this “cookie cutter” image of the “type” of person who makes a good leader, but the reality is that each of us is at our most powerful, and our most impactful, when we allow the best aspects of who we are naturally to guide our leadership “style.”
Knowing your PLI is also really helpful in terms of creating a vision and plan for our lives—based on who we actually are, rather than who we think we should be.
“Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.” -Warren Bennis
How can you use it to determine whether you’re in the right role and pursuing the right vision?
At its best, your career should be a professional manifestation of your Personal Leadership Identity…if there’s general alignment between your PLI and what you’re doing or where you’re headed, then you’re in the right role and pursuing the right vision. If not, then it might be time to think about how to change or adapt your role to better suit your PLI, or to make a career pivot.
“Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.” –Victor Hugo
This is, of course, much easier said than done, and many of us put off the hard work of aligning our life and career to our Personal Leadership Identity because it’s a big task and we’re busy. However, not addressing this disconnect only results in deep misalignment and unhappiness in the long run. In these cases, instead of work being an opportunity to pursue what gives us a sense of meaning and purpose, it becomes a chore that we must do in order to survive, pay our rent or mortgage, etc.
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
What’s the best way to define your Personal Leadership Identity?
Chapter 6 in The New Alpha book spells out a step-by-step processing for doing this, but the gist is that our Personal Leadership Identity doesn’t usually come to us out of thin air; rather we uncover it by reflecting on our life and experiences and by identifying the values, strengths, skills, passions, and ideal conditions that have facilitated our best and most enjoyable successes.
For example, if you ask me what qualities I bring to the table as a leader, I might say that I’m intelligent, empathetic, and gritty. However, if you ask me to reflect on my best successes as a human being—those where I achieved something AND enjoyed doing it, and then asked me to analyze these accomplishments in terms of what they tell me about the aspects of my personality that I could draw upon in order to be a good leader, I might find intelligence, empathy, and grit in there—but I might find other more unexpected qualities too—like love, curiosity, and a sense of humor.
This retrospective and holistic approach often yields more interesting aspects of our PLI than we might come up with by simply “naming” our best qualities or relying on other people to tell us what we’re good at.
“By working to become the best version of ourselves, we develop the foundation competencies that are necessary to effectively lead others.”-Danielle Harlan