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Leadership Philosophy Comes From 'How?' Instead of 'What?'

leadership philosophyWe really need to reframe what it means to lead and how our identity is wrapped up in leadership.

If you're like most people, when you were a child you were asked over and over again, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” There were some answers that got approval -- a doctor, a teacher, a firefighter. Some answers were met with a little bit of a chortle, like “Isn't that cute?” when you said something like you wanted to be an astronaut or the president or an artist. Some answers, as you got older, were met with skepticism. People tried to talk you out of them, they tried to steer you into being something they thought you should be.

Whatever your pathway was with that question, over time your identity began being linked to a type of job. When you finally moved into your career, almost certainly, your identity in some way has been linked to what you do.

But what if we were asking different questions, even of children?

Leadership Philosophy: Beyond the Title

Instead of asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” what if we were asking, “How do you want to be when you grow up?”

If we were inviting people to give us those answers about how they wanted to be seen, maybe they would say things like, “I want to be kind,” “I want to be friendly,” “I want to be interested in others,” “I want to make a difference ...” And if that's how children came to think of themselves, if that's how they formed their identity -- not based on what they would do, but how they would be -- that might not only influence their career choices, it might influence a whole lot more.

Good news! It's never too late to ask this question. So ask it of yourself as a leader. How do you want to be? How do you want to show up? How do you want to be remembered?

If you've never given those questions any thought, it's high time that you did. How you see yourself is how you will be.

Deliberately choosing how to be begins with determining what matters to you. Thinking about your values and determining with a decisive action toward how you want to be is all part of becoming a leader. You might even choose to do an exercise about this. We have an entire webpage that you can utilize to download examples and resources for writing your own Personal Leadership Philosophy. This is a profound exercise that will change the way you see yourself.

Develop the 'How'

If you’d like to learn more about becoming a leader or developing your supervisory skills, be sure to check out our popular program Workplace Conversations. It’s available to organizations of any size as a group workshop or for self-paced e-learning you can access on your own. You can learn more about executive coaching and other ways we put people first at www.peoplefirstps.com.

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Topics: philosophy of leadership

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