Sometimes we feel there is a gap – we cannot quite grasp – between who we are as individuals and how we lead as managers. A certain inadequacy between our true self and the way we think we should be and look like in our professional roles.
This often leads to pressure and great efforts in order to fit in a suit or mask we believe others expect from us. How can we bridge this gap? How to find the authenticity and feel comfortable with who we are as leaders and people at the same time? How to leave the burden behind and lead from who we are?
The pains, pressures and troubles of being who others expect
Everything starts not with what others necessarily expect from us, but what we believe these external expectations to be. So they do not always have a basis in reality, but they are rather connected to what we think others value, want or appreciate.
This is how we often strive to be these perfect leaders; to behave according to high standards and demands, to reach all the KPIs, to always be in the front line, to be inspirational and understand everything. You see how these implied or perceived expectations can actually hurt us and have the opposite effect of making us better: they can actually alienate us from who we are.
The chemistry formula behind leading from who you are
If this is what we face everyday, what should we do?
# Keep a balance and calibrate who you are with how you lead
There is a subtle balance, a golden proportion between these two aspects. If you are always vulnerable and do not deliver results, the organisation might understandably start to say you no longer belong there. But if you are always rigid and do not care about the people in your team, if you are not preoccupied by their well-being and motivation, you also risk to be unfit.
The key is to speak your values and find a way to calibrate them to what your organisation needs.
# Approach things with courage
Yes, you will need courage. Courage to position yourself, courage to take action, courage to speak from you heart and let’s not forget about the courage to admit your mistakes. After all, we’re all human; the stake is not how to be perfect as a leader, but to evolve, to strive to be better everyday.
# Have an open and honest conversation about who you are
In order to reach this balance between who you are and how you lead, the first step is to communicate and find out what the organisation needs as well. Talk about who you are, what are your values, find your strengths and see how you can build on them – in the benefit of others, of people in your team. So everything begins with an assessment, a thorough evaluation in order to find out how to reveal ourselves in our best possible version, but also in sync with our beliefs and character. And remember, this will not happen over night, we are talking about a process that takes time and patience.
The complex profile of the leader nowadays
Ten years ago, this sort of challenge – bridging the gap between who we are and how we lead – might not have been on our agenda or on our minds for that matter. Why? Because there was little room for leadership; being a manager was more important, structure, processes and rules were highly valued.
Only after big changes – new technologies, globalization, access to knowledge, the evolution of the Internet and so on –, leadership appeared as not only a need to keep people organised, but rather to involve them, to help them contribute, work together and see a bigger purpose in their work.
So it’s a natural evolution of this paradigm that brought us questioning how to be and do all these things. Leaders have to be firm, yet mild. Authentic, yet professional. Human, yet capable. The mix between these very different and seemingly opposing traits exists and can be reached. It’s a question of where we are in this bigger vision of the world today.
For eventually, it is not only about us. We are part of an organisational system. On the other hand, we cannot and should not hide who we are, as this will eventually rise to the surface anyway. Our most important abilities, talents and passions should just be put in the best light, in order for us and for the people from the organisation to move forward, make a change and bring bigger satisfaction to everyone they serve.