Updated: Jun 26, 2019
The number one priority for the majority of my coaching clients over the past four months has been identifying who they are as a leader, what they stand for and who they want to be known as. They’ve identified that their lack of clarity around their leadership identity is a barrier to them stepping into their power as a leader. They’ve realised its time to upgrade their personal story about who they are as a leader to improve their performance and remove roadblocks to their success.
I’ve been working with them to identify and upgrade their leadership story and I wanted to share the process I use with you. Read on to find out how to develop your own leadership story and the four key steps about how you can then upgrade it. This process will increase your confidence and clarity, your certainty in your decision-making, your effectiveness as a leader and will help you connect more authentically and powerfully with your team.
What do I mean by upgrade your personal story?
We all have stories and beliefs about ourselves, who we are and what we’re capable of. But how often do we stop to pause, shine a light on, and examine, who we think we are and ensure that our beliefs about ourselves really reflect who we are today and who we want to be in the future?
If we don’t regularly take the time to examine and upgrade our beliefs about ourselves, then it’s like sticking to your old paper roadmap from 1995 to navigate life and make decisions instead of upgrading to a GPS that is constantly updating and reflecting what’s current in the world. Imagine you want to drive somewhere you’ve never been before and your old paper map can’t tell you how to get there because there have been new roads built since 1995. What happens? You have an aspiration about where you want to go but the system you have won’t tell you how to get there.
It’s the same with our leadership identity. We may have taken on a new leadership role and have identified some goals we aspire to. However if we still have old beliefs about ourselves and what we’re capable of that are floating around in our subconscious that we aren’t aware of, chances are we’ll end up sabotaging ourselves because we haven’t upgraded our old map of the world. We bump up against beliefs of what we’re capable of which gets in the way of us achieving our goals.
When was the last time you updated your internal GPS about your leadership identity?
Author of best-selling book Atomic Habits, James Clear, explains why this practice so so integral to our success as leaders. He says there are three levels at which change can occur (Figure 1)- a change in your outcomes, a change in your processes, or a change in your identity.
Many people, successful and unsuccessful, have outcomes they want to achieve, that they put into goals, but only some people achieve their goals – why is that? James believes that many of us work from the outside of the circles inwards when wanting to change. He believes that starting from the inside out, from our identity, would be more effective. Instead of focusing on outcomes (or what we want to achieve), he recommends we try focusing on who we wish to become and build identity-based habits.
So you want to be a better leader or you’ve stepped into a new role that stretches you?
Professor Brene Brown, a renowned social researcher, recommends that we write down our “Shitty First Draft (SFD)” which is our brain’s story of what is going on with our leadership. When stress is involved, pain occurs, or when vulnerability is near we make up stories. What is your story about your leadership? Often all sorts of limiting beliefs can pop up in this phase. “I’m not good at…”; “I can’t….”; “I’m scared of….”; “I’m not good enough…”; “I’m not as good as….”; “Who do I think I am….” And so on. The dark thoughts we think about ourselves and not being good enough can be really horrible.
Writing our SFD story down, warts and all, revealing all our fears, worries and vulnerabilities, allows us to investigate the tough questions about what’s really happening, to evaluate what we’re thinking, and to ask whether our stories are true, or a way to disengage and self-protect. Often we’re not even aware about the stories we believe about ourselves.
Once you get that old story out there and examine it, you’re in a position to create your brave new ending. Who is it that you want to be as a leader? YOU get to decide what your new leadership story looks like and how you want it to develop and end.
The four steps to upgrading your personal story
In summary the four steps to creating your new leadership identity are to:
Compose your Shitty First Draft about who you really think you are as a leader (all your fears, anxieties, vulnerabilities)
Cull the outdated beliefs, the ones that don’t serve you any more
Claim the good parts from your old story you want to keep going forward
Create your new leadership story, who is it that you want to be, who do you wish to become, what do you want to be known for, who you are at your best
James Clear then takes it one step further. He says:
Decide the type of person you want to be.
Prove it to yourself with small wins.
Start acting like that person you want to be, that leader in your current story, who reflects your current identity.
In doing this you are throwing out your paper 1995 map and installing a brand new state of the art GPS that can help you get to where you want to go as a leader.
I challenge you to go through these steps and watch what happens with your leadership effectiveness. If you’d like some support to do this then please get in touch and let’s talk about how we can work together.