Who are you?

Turns out, who are you is not an easy question to answer.

There are multiple dimensions to who you are.  There is who you think you are. There is who others perceive you to be.  How you are perceived may depend entirely on context, where people know you from. You are most likely a different person to your friends then you are to you co-workers and you are probably also a different person to your lover.  You are also probably different at different stages in your life and perhaps at different times of the day, depending on what you ate or didn’t eat and how that is affecting your brain processes at any given moment.

For those of us who aspire to lead, we have to answer this in at least 2 dimensions.  Who do we wish to be, for ourselves. What are our personal ethics and what sort of behavior are we ok with and what isn’t. This helps us resist temptation when it presents itself.

We also need to know what sort of impact we want to have on others. I have written before that it isn’t enough to want to do good. Your reputation may not hinge on who you actually are, but rather on who you are perceived to be. This is especially true for people who put themselves out there to be leaders.

Being a good leader, because it depends on perception, requires you to perform as a leader would.  This doesn’t mean being inauthentic. It means understanding that presentation matters and taking the steps necessary to make sure your presentation is consistent with your core values as a person.

Some leaders fake it. Their presented self is a lie and doesn’t jive with who they really are.  However, the good leaders are ones whose personal and professional lives are consistently ethical and visionary and rational and hardworking and fearless.

Don’t be afraid to wear your ethics on your sleeve. Being open about who you are personally, helps people understand who you aspire to be as a leader. This is where the fearlessness comes in. Most of us are quiet about our ethics and values. Those are personal to us. For leaders, they need to be explicit which means you need to perform your ethical values publicly for them to be understood.

Will this protect you from attack? Of course not. Unethical leaders who lie to gain advantage will lie about you if it helps them. But being clear about who you are and who you aspire to be as a leader, will help you confront and take on the challenges that come with being a leader.

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