Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. In addition to fifteen years in academia, he also spent twenty years as a business executive. His research is in high performance in the midst of change.
Over the next decade or so, tens of millions of service and professional jobs will be automated along with more manufacturing jobs. Service jobs that are at risk include retail, fast-food, manual laborers and construction workers, truck drivers, accountants, administrative people, paralegals, customer service reps, and security guards. Increasingly, professional jobs will be automated reducing the number of professional workers needed in the fields of accounting, law, finance, consulting, marketing, strategy, management, journalism, medicine and architecture. The Chief Economist of the Bank of England in November of 2015 predicted that over the next decade or two 80,000,000 jobs in the United States could be automated.
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
What’s the Paul Sohn definition of a sweet spot? Why does finding it matter?
I believe that sweet spot is that zone when you are living out your calling intentionally in every sphere of influence. Whether it is family, school, work, or church, living at your sweet spot is striving to find that place which is the intersection of your personality, gifts, passions, and life story. Your sweet spot leads you to live a life that matters – where you get to live out your purpose.
“Your sweet spot is the zone when you live out your calling intentionally.” -Paul Sohn
If you imagine a Venn diagram, finding your sweet spot is at the intersection of four interlocking circles. The first circle is about your personality – the specific tendencies and temperament you’re hardwired. The second circle is your giftedness, your marketable skills talents and strengths that some were born with and others developed over time. The third circle is your passions – the things that ignite your soul. And when you combine that with addressing the needs of the world that becomes a powerful force in discovering your calling. Lastly and not least, it’s your life story. You have gone through specific experiences, the ups and downs, the open doors and closed doors in life.
Copyright Paul Sohn, Used by Permission
“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” -St. Augustine