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  • Writer's pictureDr. Patrick E. Crawford

Who You Are is How You Lead

Leadership Thoughts | Issue #130

My colleague Charles Schwahn's words, "Who you are is how you lead," resonated with me when I first heard them. Since then, I've repeated this wisdom in every leadership course or presentation I've given. People often give me a quizzical look when they hear it, not understanding what it means or how to respond. Even when I try to explain the concept, it takes some reflection time for people to grasp its meaning entirely.

The idea that "who you are is how you lead" stresses that one's leadership skills don't come merely from knowledge or techniques but from a person's true nature. This phrase underscores the notion that leadership isn't limited to learned abilities and approaches but draws significantly from the leader's core self. To better comprehend this concept, let's examine it more closely:

  1. Authenticity: Authenticity is an essential element of successful leadership. By demonstrating their genuine values and principles through their words and actions, leaders can more easily gain respect and trust from the people they lead. Staying true to oneself should always be a priority to portray the leader's unique character and identity accurately.

  2. Values and Ethics: A leader's actions reflect their values and beliefs, making it more likely that they will make moral, judicious decisions and foster a culture of ethical conduct. Personal ethics serve as the compass that guides their behavior in any given scenario.

  3. Communication Style: A leader talks and interacts with others based on character and temperament. Honest, transparent, and compassionate communication often comes from a genuine understanding of oneself, allowing for a connection with others on a more personal level.

  4. Emotional Intelligence: Leaders with high emotional intelligence are particularly aware of their own feelings and emotions and those of the people around them. This skill is connected to being mindful of one's own emotional state and recognizing its effects.

  5. Relationship Building: Creating strong connections with your colleagues calls for an interest in truly understanding and helping them. Leaders who exhibit kindness, respect, and concern will form more meaningful bonds.

  6. Decision-Making: A leader's decisions are heavily influenced by their personal philosophies and past experiences. Self-aware people can better sort through challenging choices and make selections aligned with their core beliefs.

  7. Influence and Inspiration: Leaders who stay true to their beliefs and values can powerfully affect those around them. Because of their unwavering dedication and enthusiasm, they can encourage those in their team and organization to exceed expectations.

The connection between an individual's core being and their leading style is highlighted by the notion that "who you are is how you lead." By recognizing and applying their own identity, convictions, and activities, leaders can cultivate a more customized and beneficial method of guiding that resonates with those they lead and promotes a healthy workplace atmosphere.

Reflection Questions

These thought-provoking questions will take you on a journey of self-discovery, leading to a deeper understanding of how your personal identity intertwines with your leadership style and approach.

  • How do your core values and beliefs shape the way you approach leadership?Contemplate the beliefs and values that are the foundations of your leadership decisions. How do these principles govern the approaches you take and the connections you make with your staff or organization?

  • In what ways does your self-awareness impact your leadership style? Consider how well you understand your strengths, weaknesses, and emotional triggers. How does this self-awareness affect the way you communicate, delegate tasks, and handle challenges? Are you open to feedback and willing to adapt based on your self-reflection?

  • How do your life experiences and personal journey influence your leadership approach? Reflect on the significant occurrences, accomplishments, and difficulties that have impacted your outlook. How do these circumstances affect your capacity to understand another's feelings, choices, and connections with those you manage? Are there any teachings from history that guide your leadership approach?

  • What role does authenticity play in your leadership style? Assess the level of integrity in your conversations with colleagues. Do you show them your true self, or do you act differently? How does being honest about yourself affect the trust and respect you gain as a leader?

  • How does your understanding of others' individuality impact your leadership effectiveness? Do you take the time to recognize the unique qualities of each team member? Can you adjust your techniques to deal with unique personalities, strengths, and communication styles? Do you think considering individuals' differences leads to a more inclusive and productive work atmosphere?

The statement "who you are is how you lead" underscores the integral connection between an individual's inner self and their leadership style. By recognizing and embracing their own identity, values, and behaviors, leaders can cultivate a more meaningful and impactful approach to leadership that resonates with their team members and contributes to a positive organizational culture.


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