I'm pleased to share a helpful summary of the impact and importance of PUBLIC IDENTITY for leaders, as well as practical steps to take in order to gain a more thorough and accurate understanding of how you are “showing up.”
Leadership qualities important for success in virtually all organizations today include the ability to listen to candid feedback from trusted colleagues. It’s in these types of conversations that we can begin to see our blind spots and consider new possibilities for more effective action.
Public Identity and Constructive Feedback
As a leader, you have significant and obvious influence over both the objective (productivity, profitability) and subjective (environment, culture) aspects of your organization. Your ability to understand your impact and influence – as well as make appropriate course corrections – is part of what it means to learn and develop as a leader.
Because of this, your Public Identity is important to explore. A few questions to consider:
- Is it possible that the way you see yourself… is not the way others see you?
- Do you know how you’re being perceived?
- That is, do you know how you’re “showing up” for the different constituencies which are important to you?
- Are you showing up in ways that you desire?
- What actions most influence your public identity?
- Who is responsible for your public identity? (You are!)
Key claim: The world does not interact with who you think you are!
No matter what you think of yourself as a leader, rest assured: your colleagues and employees are interacting with you based on their experiences and assessments, not yours.
Do you have anyone at work who will give you the “straight poop?” That is, someone who will actually share with you their honest impressions of you… even if they think it may not be feedback you’ll necessarily enjoy? If so, this person is likely a very valuable colleague or friend, providing information which can “ground” you and allow you to more consciously choose your future actions and interactions.
And if not, you have an excellent opportunity to enroll people who can provide you with this type of feedback. Most organizational cultures do not support unsolicited sideways or upward feedback. As a leader, if you want this, it is very likely you will need to explicitly enroll individuals (via a request and a commitment) to provide it.
It takes emotional strength to listen to feedback of this type. But this does not mean you allow everyone to give you feedback in every area. Some people, for instance, may not be competent to provide certain types of feedback to you. This does mean, however, that in certain areas of your job performance you solicit periodic input from people you trust and also believe to be competent to provide you with that type of input.
It can be extremely valuable for you to learn, for example, that you sometimes come across as arrogant during certain meetings… or that the perception exists “out there” that you fell down on managing a key commitment several months ago. It can also be extremely valuable to learn of particular ways in which you most positively impact colleagues and employees.
The invitation is to become a more conscious designer and manager of your public identity – because it’s already connected to your effectiveness as a leader, whether you’re aware of this or not!