Yesterday I had the honor of facilitating the first class in a 6-month Leadership Academy. We had 18 men and women from a variety of backgrounds. Some are in their late 50s, others in their 30s. Some work in not-for-profits, while others work in for-profit companies. Some are small business owners. Most have been in leadership roles for at least a few years.
Our goal in this first class was to start talking about how we define leadership and what leadership goals people wanted to set for themselves. We used the VisualsSpeak Image sets to have some amazing conversations about what it means to be a leader.
What emerged from the stories and conversations we shared were three big questions that I think every leader needs to ask him/herself:
Who am I as a leader?
This, of course is a fundamental question. As we first began to define leadership, it became clear what it means to be a leader is shaped by our experiences, our industry and occupation, our corporate culture and our own personality.
We talked a lot about whether or not people perceived themselves as leaders--was it part of their identity? Sometimes we don't see ourselves as leaders because we have some idea of leadership that doesn't include the type of leader we may be. This is especially true for people who may be more facilitative, introverted or quiet in their leadership style. Figuring out the ways in which we lead and how these fit in with our identity is a foundational issue when we begin exploring ourselves as leaders.
Am I the leader I think I am?
Several participants indicated that they had a particular view of themselves as leaders, but it was a view that they hadn't examined in awhile--if ever. Several also realized that maybe their view of themselves wasn't the view that others held of them. Asking this question gets at both other people's perceptions, as well as our own perceptions of ourselves that may not have been examined in awhile.
Am I the leader I want to be?
This is a question that invites the potential for change. It asks us to be more intentional about the kind of leader we want to be and then to act in alignment with that vision. For several people in our group, this was a major question they want to explore.
How would you answer these questions for yourself? What would your answers tell you about yourself as a leader?