Hands down; what is the best investment a leader can make?

It is an investment in herself.

If a leader is going to remain effective, let alone improve her effectiveness, she must improve herself; this includes increasing her skill as well as expanding her knowledge.

This seems obvious but leaders often have a hard time devoting time to this basic requirement of leadership.

Just as important as knowing who you are is knowing who you are not.

We run into leadership challenges when our actions do not align with our identity. In my own experience as a leader and based on my observations of other leaders, people who do not lead well are not leading out of who they are, i.e., their identity.

In some cases this disconnect between our identity and our leadership behaviors occurs because we are too fearful, too insecure, or too inadequate (in our own minds) to be who we truly are.

“Identity” is who we are or who we perceive ourselves to be, hopefully, they align but not always (and that’s a whole ‘nother topic).

Of course, our leadership identity starts with understanding who we are as people, our true identity. To further understand our leadership identity (how we behave relative to others) an assessment tool may prove beneficial. But be sure to read the directions on the label. All assessments are not created equal.

They vary in terms of their purpose (some describe our personality, some identify our preferences), their accuracy, and their intended use (for our individual use or as part of a team). Taken out of context they can be misleading. It’s important that we read the results of any assessment carefully and that we understand that an assessment contains clues not conclusions.

In my previous blog, I mentioned that one of the insights into leadership I have gained over the years is the concept of leading from our own identity. I then shared five of my leadership principles.

I also believe there is safety (and insight and wisdom and understanding) in the multitude of counselors. Thus, another insight into leadership comes from a manager at one of my previous assignments.

I am a natural introvert and my management style at the time was more goal oriented, but Michele would remind me over and over, “It’s about the people.” I soon learned that being an introvert and caring about goals did not mean that I could not make valuing people an even higher priority.

One of the insights into leadership I have gained through the years is the concept of leading from our own identity. This insight includes recognizing the importance of being who we are not just doing what we do. So much of the literature on leadership focuses on helping us to be better at doing “stuff”.

To the extent the literature focuses on being, a lot of it directs us to be someone else. Take the comments from someone reviewing a book on leadership – “The author is clearly an extrovert so some of the personality traits he talks about or things he sort of assumes you are already doing are only valid if you are also extroverted like him. For those of us who are introverts, you are going to realize that there are extra steps involved to reach some of his suggested goals/mindsets.”