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Your Leadership Identity: Do You Respond Like a Leader?
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
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This article is the fourth in a series on creating leadership identity. You can also read about building a personal brand, leading through your actions, and leading through your visual and verbal presence.

We have hundreds of interactions in a day. They’re virtual and live, written and spoken. They take place through email, social media, and phone calls, or in meetings and presentations. Your response in any given interaction broadcasts your leadership identity.

Think for a moment about how you respond to what’s happening around you. Many times you probably don’t give a conscious thought to your responses. There’s a difference between reaction (unconscious) and response (thoughtful and conscious). When we move from reaction to response, it indicates a shift in our mindset around what it means to lead.

Below are some of the ways your responses can communicate the wrong leadership message. We’ve all had these happen at one time or another. One on its own isn’t a deal-breaker. But if any of these are responses you regularly engage in, it’s time to take a closer look at why it’s happening and what you can do to change it.

Believing That What Got You Here Will Get You There

This is about internalizing messages. I’ll give you an example from my life. I’m the oldest of five daughters, and there have always been lots of expectations for me, some imposed by family and some self-imposed. One of those expectations was being very responsible. That expectation has served me very well throughout my life and career, to a point.

My response to that expectation was to always strive for perfection in any project or assignment given to me. It was done well, it was done on time, and I managed nearly every detail. But I had to change when I became a leader. I had to learn new leadership responses—delegating, trusting, and letting go of influencing every single detail of a project or product. To be successful, I had to allow others to step up and take responsibility.

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Allowing the Opinions of Others to Have Leverage Over Your Decisions

This has a lot of similarities to polling, or unnecessarily asking for the input of others. Where it’s different is that you know your stuff and offer a solution or opinion based on your expertise and experience. Then it’s counteracted by another’s opinion, and you find yourself second-guessing your judgment or wanting to avoid conflict. The end result is that you accept that person’s judgment as better than yours and it affects the path you take.

When you find yourself in this situation, never assume that someone knows more than you—especially when you have the expertise and experience. A better response is to ask the other person to share more information with you. This will help you get to the “why” of that person’s opinion before allowing it to sway your decisions. 

Routinely Putting the Needs of Others Before Your Own

From time to time, we have to put the needs of others before our own; it’s part of the give and take of life and work. The mindset of giving first is also important to the success of relationships and our leadership path. The key is paying attention to whether you’re routinely putting everyone ahead of you. If it’s routine, it’s a problem, and it manifests itself in things like:

  • not advocating for yourself when it comes to assignments and raises 
  • frequently canceling personal plans for work obligations 
  • having no free time outside of work and family to pursue other interests 
  • allowing yourself to be a “yes” person to every request. 

How do you break this practice? Begin with something small. The next time someone needs you to do something that you know can be handled in another way, graciously say, “I wish I could help you, but I can’t at this time.” And if it makes sense, offer another idea on how to delegate the task.
Also, be sure to schedule yourself a given amount of free time each day or several days a week. It can be any time of the day when you shut everything off and do something for yourself. Take a walk, indulge a hobby, or just enjoy the peace and quiet. As challenging as it can be to carve out this time and space, this new way of responding will give you what you need to make you a better leader.

Look for the next article in this series to dive deeper into the next building block—leadership habits.

About the Author

Amy Franko is founder and CEO of Impact Instruction Group, which helps organizations develop their top talent and future leaders through customized leadership and onboarding programs. Her experience within global organizations shaped her skills as a strategic thinker and leader, often providing new perspectives to clients. Amy established and moderates forums for learning executives and is a recognized speaker on leadership development. She is on the board of the Girl Scouts of Ohio’s Heartland. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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