A Guide to Honing Your Identity Leadership Skills

By now I’m sure you see the importance of developing identity leadership skills. You see what having those skills can do in your life. Developing those skills plays a big role in answering the “How are you going to get there?” question. The truth is, you aren’t going to get there without those skills intact and in play. So, how do you go about developing these all-important skills? Here are eight keys to developing leadership skills.

  1. Develop your identity. Just as you need to be able to lead
    yourself before you lead others, you need to know your
    identity — understand your passions, abilities, and gifts —
    before you can effectively develop as an identity leader. That
    identity gives you a foundation on which to build your identity leadership skills.
  2. Develop emotional intelligence. Identity leaders are aware of, in control of, and able to express their emotions, and they manage relationships with empathy and understanding. Identity leaders understand their thought processes, behaviors, trigger points, strengths, and weaknesses, and they are able to inspire and influence those around them because of the emotional intelligence they possess.
  3. Be able to honestly assess yourself. If you lie to yourself, make excuses for yourself, or view yourself in a false light — either too harshly or with too much sugarcoating — you are not going to be able to lead yourself or others, because you don’t have an accurate picture of who you are.
  4. Be transparent and open in your relationships. Just as you
    need to be open and honest with yourself, you need to be so
    with others. When you have a strong sense of identity, you are not afraid to be transparent, because you have nothing to hide, and what others think or say of you doesn’t alter your understanding of who you are. And the reality is that when you are transparent with others, sharing vulnerabilities, true feelings and thoughts, and not hiding weaknesses or flaws, people’s opinions of you go higher, not lower. They will be drawn to you, want to learn from you, and have the self-confidence, like you do, to be comfortable in exposing their flaws and mistakes and show how they have learned from them.
  5. Be team- and goal-oriented. Identity leadership is all about
    you developing your skills to their utmost and using them in pursuit of individual and team goals. Companies love identity leaders because they know they can count on such people to come through and lead others in achieving corporate goals.
  6. Be willing to take ownership. The easy way out is to not take ownership of anything until you are sure that your endeavor is going to be recognized in a positive light and rewarded or lauded. Such a view is taken by people who jump on the bandwagon at the last moment — sort of like entering a marathon at mile 25 and running the last mile like you’re a champion. Identity leaders are willing to go the entire distance and acknowledge ownership from the outset, when the outcome is far from decided. They can do this because they are not relying on others to tell them who they are or how good they are. They can own their feelings, statements, and actions, because they are self-assured and will not be shaken regardless of outcome.
  7. Be able to adapt to change. A trademark of identity leaders is the ability to size up situations and make changes when necessary. Identity leaders have the confidence to change a game plan in the middle of a game, because they have the emotional intelligence to see the need for change and trust their instincts and their abilities to be able to adapt on the fly. Those without such skills often stick to a bad game plan long after they realize things are not going well, simply because they are afraid to make a change. And they suffer the consequences for not following through on their instincts.
  8. Be authentic. Perhaps more than anything else, identity leaders are authentic. They are who they are in both good times and bad. They don’t change with the situation. You can count on identity leaders in all seasons of life, in all circumstances — in fact, you can count on them most when the chips are down, because you don’t have to wonder about their true identities or what they are made of, because they have been transparent all along. Identity leaders are consistent, dependable, clear, honest, and genuine. What you see is what you get.

Six Ways to Hone Your Identity Leadership Skills
You can further develop any skill you have, no matter how good
(or how weak) you are at it. That’s why professional athletes, concert pianists, and all sorts of professionals practice and work at their skills every day. Here are six ways you can hone your self-leadership skills:

  1. Be more selfless. This might sound counterintuitive when you are talking about building self-leadership skills, but the reality is that self-leaders are very attuned to the feelings and needs of others. As you develop your EQ, you are more aware of the needs and emotions of others and can use your abilities to appropriately interact with and potentially help them.
  2. Consider the areas where you are most reluctant to be honest with yourself and others and ask yourself why this is so. Then make it your goal to be more transparent in these areas. Look for a specific person to be honest and transparent with in these areas.
  3. Care for yourself, maintaining a healthy body, mind, and spirit. Far from being selfish, this allows you to most effectively care for and impact others.
  4. Read books, articles, and blogs on ­self-leadership. Never stop learning. It’s so vital to continuing to grow and improve.
  5. Identify and embrace your passions and focus more of
    your energy on them.
    Drop activities or pursuits that take
    you away from your passions.
  6. Accept yourself for who you are. Acknowledge your shortcomings and flaws, but also acknowledge your many gifts and abilities, and focus on those. Psalm 139 talks about how fearfully and wonderfully we are made: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (13–14a esv). Recognize the glorious potential that is built into you. That is the core of your true identity, and identity leaders both grasp and operate under this reality.

Excerpted from Identity Leadership by Stedman Graham. Used with permission from Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

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  • Stedman Graham

    Chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates

    Stedman Graham has built a strong reputation for helping corporations, organizations, and individuals succeed. His life’s work has been and continues to be focused on teaching the value and process of Identity Leadership. He is the author of 11 books, including two New York Times bestsellers, and is the Chairman and CEO of S. Graham & Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm. He lives in Chicago, IL.