Does It Matter Who People Think I Am?

I’ve been asked this question both by my child and by my corporate teams this week and I believe it’s one we ask ourselves every day.  I believe the answer is directly connected to how effective we can be as a human contribution, so let’s unpack it a little.
My 12-nearly-13-year-old son is into week 4 at a brand new school, in a class of boys who’ve known each other for years.  He’s experiencing a fair amount of discomfort trying to work out where the line is between “just being him” and trying to fit in with the greater bunch as well as being an effective human because it’s human nature to pick at and test what is different.  In trying to advise him, I realized he was dealing with the child version of what we deal with as adults every day.
So it further fascinated me when I was asked the same question by one of my corporate team members.  Does it matter who people think we are?  Considering we’d been discussing authenticity and integrity, and the power of our impact on the people around us as team members, this was and is relevant.
To what degree do we stand by our personal value systems and what we believe is right?  To what degree and how do we represent ourselves?  What happens when someone we work with strongly disagrees with who we are, what we think or how we do things?  Should we then measure ourselves or change to become more “acceptable” to them; or stand firm in our beliefs and authenticity?  Where is the line?  When to bend and when not to bend?  Doesn’t leadership sometimes mean taking a strong line with people just to get things done?

Here are a couple of our conclusions:

In order to effectively lead, or influence others positively, we must be able to create a degree of relationship with them.  We cannot lead, influence or teach others that are closed off to us because we’ve been heavy handed with them.  That is bullying.  Not leadership.  This week in our team sessions we’ve thought back to the best and worst teachers we had back in school.  How they influenced our ability to learn.  How they affected which subjects we followed and which we dropped.  How much impact they had on us depending on how they showed up and how they made us feel.  How they either inspired us or crushed us with their value systems. 

Each of us has the opportunity to lead every day.  We have the opportunity to positively influence our team mates towards growth, or to shut them down.  Each of us sends out ripples that affect those around us and adds to their perspective.

We have control over how we present ourselves, but not over what others think of us or judge us to be.  How we present ourselves has a direct result on how effective we can be, and whether that effectiveness is short-lived or long-term.  A heavy hand or attitude may yield instant results, but it won’t create the trust and stability that great leaders have in the teams that support them.  Resolve to show up, represent and stand by your value system.  Allow your authentic self to lead rather than a masked version.  Leading from authenticity means admitting we are fallible.  Being vulnerable.  Being real.  This makes us accessible and far more effective as leaders than we fear.  Show courage and others will rise to the challenge.  Show consistency and you will earn trust.

There are no short cuts to being an effective human being.  There are no shortcuts to being the leader of a strong team.  Both of these things require authenticity and integrity.  These are the cornerstones of fulfilling leadership – both for the leaders and the teams.  If you wish to be the leader of a committed team, then inspiration rather than motivation is the key.  Inspiration comes from watching the example of a consistent, fallible yet courageous leader.

Here are three steps you can take:

1. Pick three of your top values (for ease).  If you can’t easily identify what you value most, figure out what irritates you most and ask what it is the lack of.
2. Ask yourself what those values look like in action.  How do you see them in others and how would you display them to others?
3. Resolve to intentionally act from those values and to use them as your guidelines and compass for all interactions.  This isn’t easy, but with determination and practise…

The idea is that if anyone was ever asked what kind of a person or leader you are, that they are able to name those values as things they feel you stand for because they have seen and felt the evidence.

If you’d like to read further on the subject, I can highly recommend this article on LinkedIn by Brigette Hyacinth entitled “Integrity is by far the most important attribute of a leader”.  Isn’t it funny how something is present from many different angles when you start to focus on it?

by Christen Killick

February 11th, 2019

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