Leadership Identity: You can only lead if you know yourself

Taking responsibility, offering support and orientation: That is the goal of many managers. But this can only work if the boss has a clear leadership identity. If they are clear: What do I stand for? And what don’t I stand for? We explain what our environment has to do with our identity and how you as a leader can develop your leadership identity in a sustainable way.

Table of Content

Frequently asked questions and answers about leadership identity:

How important is awareness of my leadership identity?

Awareness of one’s own leadership identity enables leaders to recognize their values, strengths and weaknesses and to align their decisions and actions accordingly. Through a high degree of self-reflection and self-awareness, leaders can continuously sharpen their leadership identity and develop their full potential.

How do I consciously develop my identity as a leader?

First of all, become aware of your own values and strengths. Ask yourself: What do I stand for? What can I do? Steer the focus away from your weaknesses and toward your unique strengths – and allow your employees to do the same.

How is our identity affected by the environment?

Our identity as leaders is formed by the environment and our experiences. The society in which we live influences our values, norms and expectations of leadership. In addition, cultural, social, and organizational influences play a role. Environmental factors can have both positive and negative effects on our identity.

This is how important identity is as a leader

In a fast-paced world where change is the norm and organizations are constantly faced with new challenges, identity as a leader is critical. A clear and strong leadership identity serves as a compass that helps leaders define and pursue their values, vision and goals. This allows you, as a leader, to make decisions on a solid foundation – while acting authentically and coherently. A strong identity not only gives you clear direction, but also enables you to inspire others, build trust, and successfully lead through uncertain times. In an ever-changing business environment, leadership identity is thus an indispensable anchor for successful leadership.

What our society has to do with identity

Our identity as a leader is significantly influenced by the society in which we live. And it starts in our childhood: our education system places a strong focus on deficits rather than individual strengths. We try to meet the expectations of others. The problem: we lose our identity. Often we don’t even know who we are.

And this also affects executives: In a world shaped by social media, global networking and constant change, executives are confronted with a wide range of influences and expectations. Society places high demands on leaders, both in terms of professional competence and personal qualities such as empathy, authenticity and ethical behavior. At the same time, executives are often confronted with high pressure to be successful and to meet certain standards. This social context can cause leaders to question themselves and adjust their identity to meet expectations. The problem: If your inner ideal image of a leader does not match your actual personality, sooner or later this will lead to conflicts – with your employees, but also with yourself.

Inner and outer aspects of leadership identity

Your personal leadership ID is formed by both inner and outer aspects. The inner aspects refer to your personal characteristics, values, beliefs and strengths. They include self-awareness, awareness of your talents and weaknesses, and personal vision and goals. Inner aspects of leadership identity are closely related to the individual personality and form the foundation on which the leader builds his or her decisions, actions and leadership competencies.

External aspects, on the other hand, relate to perceptions of and feedback from the environment in which the leader operates. They include how others perceive the leader, assess the leader’s skills and performance, and interactions and relationships with employees, colleagues, and other stakeholders. External aspects of leadership identity can be influenced by feedback, evaluations, and the leader’s success in the organization or industry.

Internal aspects

  1. Biography: everyone has their own story – and it plays into your identity as a leader. Experiences from childhood, social and cultural imprints, disappointments: All of these have a significant influence on your image of an ideal leader.

  2. Motives: What drives you as a leader? Do you want to help shape things, gain recognition, carry people away? Your leadership ID should be aligned with your personal motives. Only then can you be successful as a leader in the long term.

  3. Values: Every manager needs a clear system of values in order to be able to make the right decisions even in difficult situations. Our values also determine where we feel comfortable as a leader and what kind of work we like to do.

  4. Mission: As human beings, we are looking for a sense of purpose. If we know our values and our motives, we can also find our mission. The question “What gives my work meaning?” can help. Your mission is the driver for all aspects of your work.

  5. Impact: How do you want to appear to the outside world? What do you want employees to say about you when you are not present? Become aware of the actions and behaviors you want to be known for – and whether your current behaviors align with them.

  6. Resources: Where do you draw your energy from? Whether that’s family, sports, or another hobby, become aware of your sources of energy that you can use to recharge your battery at any time. And most importantly, don’t take these sources for granted.

  7. Legitimacy: Answer the question: Why do I have this position in the company? Many leaders have a problem with this – especially because we were often raised to be humble in our childhood. Self-confidently acknowledging the ability for your position is not only important – it also has nothing to do with an exaggerated ego.

External aspects

  1. Stakeholders: In any company, executives are caught up in a web of interdependent relationships. As a manager, you should therefore know: Who are important relationship partners and what is your dependency?

  2. Expectations: What are the expectations of your stakeholders? Only by becoming aware of these can you decide how to deal with individual expectations.

  3. Problems: Not all expectations can be met by you as a manager. The key here is to be clear about which requirements are important to you – and which are less so.

  4. Roles: As a manager, you have various roles. Ask yourself: Which roles can and do I want to fulfill in the long term?

Develop a leadership identity: Focus on values

Values in decision-making

Every day, we make about 20,000 decisions – the majority of them unconsciously. This in turn means that we make these decisions based on our personal, inner values. The problem is that many people are not aware of their values. Yet this awareness is crucial when it comes to your role as a leader.

Become aware of your personal values

We recommend: Try to become aware of at least your three to five most important values. This will enable you to consciously use your values even when making difficult decisions.

Values as a leader

If you are aware of your values as a leader, you can actively make promises to your employees. Your employees know what you stand for. This not only creates trust, but also reliability.

Values in the work environment

Values also play a major role in your work environment. Because you will only feel sustainably good where your values are lived and fulfilled. On the other hand, you will eventually feel uncomfortable in a work environment where completely different values are represented.

This is another reason why it pays to become aware of your values. When looking for a new job, you can then actively search for a company that represents your values.

Develop leadership identity: Leveraging personal strengths

The story of Gillian Lynne

Gillian Lynne, known these days as a dancer and choreographer, had major problems in school as a child. The then 8-year-old had difficulty concentrating, was constantly on the move. She simply did not fit in with the school environment and surroundings. Her mother took her to a doctor who observed the girl for some time. When he and mother left the room, little Gillian began dancing to the radio music. The doctor finally told Mother, “Gillian is not sick, she is a dancer.” That’s because Gillian Lynne had a unique strength, dancing, from the age of eight.

What does this mean for us as leaders? Everyone on our team, including ourselves, has a unique strength. And this is what we need to find out.

“What can I do?” instead of “What can’t I do?”

If you are aware of your unique strengths, you shift your focus from “What can’t I do?”, from bad grades and devaluing others to, “What can I do?” Leaders who model a focus on their own strengths allow their employees to do the same. And that not only makes for a more positive corporate culture, it opens up whole new avenues, ensures greater creativity and builds trust.

triangility: Become unique

Discover your leadership identity. Develop yourself further. Become aware of your values and strengths. At triangility, we can support you in this process. Whether with individual training, seminars or workshops. Together we can develop your own personal identity as a leader. Because you are unique.

Book your initial, obligation-free meeting now!

“Do schools kill the creativity?” TED Talk with Sir Ken Robinson (telling the story of Gillian Lynne)

Personal Values – Free Online Test to examine your personal values