In my work with emerging women leaders, I talk often about creating a leadership identity. A lot of questions come up. What is it? How do I create it? What does it mean to my leadership path and career?
So many great questions. With those in mind, I’ve decided to create a series on this important topic over the next several issues of Impact. I’ll begin by painting the big picture of leadership identity and its building blocks. Future articles will give you more detail on each building block, along with actionable tips you can put into practice, so you can create and enhance your unique identity.
First, let’s define leadership identity. What is it?
- It’s your presence in your work and in the world. This is about your physical and mental presence, your attitude, your readiness to take on new challenges and make an impact. It’s how you “show up” every day and for every interaction. Do you show up looking the part of a leader, acting the part of a leader, and with the attitude of a leader? Are you ready for the next opportunity when it arrives?
- It drives your decisions toward big-picture leadership goals. Think for a moment about your big picture leadership goal. What kind of person will you be when you reach that goal? What will be different, better? Now compare the mindset and decisions of the person you are today to that of the person you will become when you reach your big picture goal. If you’re like most, there’s a gap; your mindset and decisions need to become consistent with where you want to be, versus where you are today. It’s like the old saying goes, what got you here won’t get you there.
- It reflects your values, mindset, actions, and responses. The best way I can describe this is with an example from my own life. One of my top values is health and wellness. When I reflect on my life I can see it almost everywhere – from playing sports as a child, to my role models, to my personal habits. That value, along with the mindset, actions, and responses that go along with it, shows up continually in my leadership identity – from my energy in front of the room, to my attitude, to my creativity levels, to my overall presence.
Now that we’ve defined leadership identity, I’ll layout out 7 building blocks that are key to creating it and evolving it. These are adapted from Dr. Lois Frankel’s Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, the international best-seller on women in the workplace.
- Market: Each of us has a brand, whether we consciously shape it or allow others to do it for us. What are you known for that distinguishes you from the crowd, and are you visible to senior leadership?
- Act: Our self-initiated behaviors communicate a lot about us. Do your self-initiated behaviors reflect assertiveness, decisiveness, and confidence?
- Respond: Our responses to situations and people also say a lot about us. What is your emotional intelligence in handling workplace situations and people around you?
- Look: Do you dress the part of a leader and professional? What does your physical presence exude?
- Sound: Every communication, verbal or written, is an opportunity to showcase how well you organize your thoughts and articulate yourself. Do you sound like a leader?
- Play: Business is a game, and women have what it takes to win. Do you play strictly by the rules, or do you take risks and play near the boundary lines?
- Think: This is your mindset or belief system about how you work, about what will get you rewarded, promoted, and create career satisfaction and fulfillment. What is your mindset?
Look for the next article in this series to dive deeper into one of these seven building blocks.
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