Define Your Personal Leadership Identity

Your Personal Leadership Identity

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.

And that’s why Danielle Harlan’s book, The New Alpha: Join the Rising Movement of Influencers and Changemakers Who Are Redefining Leadership, appealed to me. She packed this book with advice on how to become the best version of yourself and to use your influence for good.

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

 

Your Unique Identity

What is a Personal Leadership Identity?

danielle harlanPersonal 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

 

Make Work the Pursuit of the Meaningful

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

 

How to Define Your Personal Leadership Identity

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.The New Alpha

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

 

Do you have an example or story of someone who understood this concept and how it changed their future or perspective?

Don’t Get Hooked! Why Successful People Don’t Take the Bait

Beware of Taking the Bait

You’re swimming peacefully. Then everything changes.

There it is, right in front of you. It’s amazing. It smells delicious. It’s yours for the taking!

You take a bite, just a little taste, you think, and then….

You’re hooked!

Someone has you, and they are reeling you in. You push and pull and thrash, but you can’t get away. You’re done.

That may be the perspective of a newly-caught fish on a summer morning, but it’s too often also a story that we identify with.

 

“Happiness can only be found if you free yourself of all other distractions.” -Saul Bellow

 

Beware of the Subtle Hooks

Every day we are surrounded with opportunities to throw us off our mission. If we aren’t careful, we are soon hooked onto something and getting dragged far away from our purpose:

  • News stories designed to pull us in with shock value.
  • Friends sharing the latest gossip.
  • Video games that make hours disappear.
  • Emails that are someone else’s priorities.
  • Texts and social media messages that are unimportant, but feel urgent.

 

“I’ve trained all my life to not to be distracted by distractions.” -Nik Wallenda

 

Where did the time go?

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

 

It All Starts With Safety

Author and speaker Simon Sinek is a gifted storyteller. In this talk, Simon zeroes in on an often overlooked aspect of leadership: safety.

Simon recounts the story of an ambush and its powerful lesson. When Army Captain William Swenson and his men were under heavy fire in Afghanistan, it was all caught on camera. As Swenson is seen helping an injured soldier onto a helicopter, you see Swenson lean over and kiss the injured soldier’s forehead before running back into a battle.

 

“Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.” –Simon Sinek

 

Build a Culture That Encourages Selflessness

Why did he do this? Sinek’s first hypothesis was that the military somehow attracted selfless people. After further investigation, Sinek concluded it was the environment that elevated behavior. The culture and values of the organization were strong enough to encourage selflessness.

We will put our lives at risk to save others because of trust. That means that trust increases safety. When we feel safe, we are empowered. When we are not acting under threat, we are able to give our best, to be more creative, to be more productive. More trust = more safety = more productivity and creativity. It’s a formula that all leaders should study.

Trust and safety may be difficult to measure, but they are essential for optimal performance.

 

“Good leaders make you feel safe.” –Simon Sinek

 

Without safety, instead of focusing on outside threats, we are turned inside. When we feel safe, we are able to work together for a common cause and fulfill the leader’s vision.

Your Big Opportunity is Where You Are

It’s Right In Front of You

My wife will tell you that I most often miss what’s right in front of me. Sure, I can find something hidden in the pantry or buried in the refrigerator. But when I call out, “Honey, do we have any milk?” it’s a near-certainty that it is sitting smack in front of my face.

Don’t laugh. Some of you have done that, too.

There’s a reason the saying, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side,” endures through the years.

Because it’s so often true. We can miss what’s right in front of us.

 

“Your big opportunity may be right where you are.” –Napoleon Hill

 

We abandon today’s happiness as we dream about what it would be like somewhere else.

We think that owning a business tomorrow is better than working on the job today.

We imagine that the job will be better than school.

We tell ourselves that it will be calm and peaceful in our homes once the children grow up.

And, at times, we are right.

But how often do we give up today’s happiness unnecessarily? What if the opportunity we dreamed of wasn’t there, but was here?

 

“Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later.” -Og Mandino

 

The Joy of Today

Most of you know I’m all about dreaming, about setting big goals, and about achieving them. At the same time, we need to experience the joy of today, the happiness of right now, the magic of the moment.

Don’t Miss the Magic Around You

Don’t Miss the Magic

 

“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” -Roald Dahl

 

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is one of those timeless classic movies loved by children and adults. A frustrated inventor shows promise, but nothing seems to work until he modifies an old car and transforms it into a flying machine. The adventure captivates audiences to this day, long after its 1968 debut.

Dick Van Dyke plays that inventor. Recently, at age 90, decades after the film was produced, he surprised everyone by singing while having breakfast at Denny’s.

 

“Imagination is the true magic carpet.” -Norman Vincent Peale

 

I just loved it. It demonstrated powerful lessons:

Magical moments are all around us if we only tune in.

 

“It’s still magic even if you know how it’s done.” -Terry Pratchett

 

You could see that some people in the restaurant missed the magic. Maybe they were too busy (and we all appreciate those still working and focused on the customers no matter what was going on). Maybe stress robbed them of the moment. For whatever reason, some people just missed it.

It may have seemed like a casual breakfast at Denny’s. No big deal, nothing special. But, for those who were open to recognizing the moment, it was magic. A lifetime memory.

Look around you today. There’s hidden talent wherever you go. There are people who have capabilities you don’t begin to realize. If you’re open to these moments, your whole life changes.

 

“Look for magic in daily routine.” -Lou Barlow

 

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