Saturday, July 14, 2007

Be Yourself

Over the next several blog entries, I hope to have a dialogue about key elements of one person’s leadership philosophy. These are the “7 BEs of a Leader.” Let me know what you think!

Have you ever considered how totally confused you would be if you followed every bit of leadership wisdom you’ve heard or read – this blog included? I’m not sure how you would perform, for example, if you practiced the combined insights of proven leaders like Jack Welch, Donald Trump, and Rudy Guiliani – but your personal life would be a mess! You can’t be who you are not.

This is an issue I have confronted as I began a new leadership journey in my new position here in Los Angeles. I wondered if I would be a good fit, if I would measure up to my predecessor, and if I was up to the tasks required of me. And when I allowed myself the chance, I could feel my pulse increasing as I thought of how to perform during my first days on the job so they would like me, so they would respect me, and so they would accept me as their new leader. The stress, like the requirements of my new job, was a heavy burden to bear.

Be yourself. Acknowledge and understand your strengths and weaknesses. They define who we are. While the quest for growth and personal development is a life-long journey, it should not change our true character. Our learning, like our leadership, should be applied within the context of your unique, God-given personality.

What does it mean to be yourself? Be genuine. Subordinates can see right through a leader who is trying to be something they are not. Be transparent. Let others know we are human. We make mistakes. We have good and bad days. We get nervous. We care. We celebrate successes and share the disappointment of failure.

Leaders who adopt this principle establish a culture in which individual identities are valued. Strengths and weaknesses are combined to take advantage of the distinctive capabilities of each member of the team. Diversity becomes a characteristic that leverages the special skills, attributes, and problem solving capabilities that are found in different people and different cultures. Leaders ensure that teammates understand that they are valued for their uniqueness.

I think this is what the Army was trying to promote through its “Army of One” campaign. For many leaders raised up during the “Be All You Can Be” generation, this new approach didn’t register. I think I got it though, and it gets to this principle of being yourself. There is one Army, but it consists of individuals, each of whom has the potential for achieving their hopes and dreams as part of something great. In an “Army of One,” it is possible to be a part of a great team without losing your identify.

In business, being yourself means establishing your niche, your brand, and your unique organizational culture. You have your own corporate qualities and characteristics that appeal to your internal and external customers and separate you from your competition. Rather than try to be like all the others, embrace your uniqueness and use it to an advantage. Stand out in the crowd of business look-alikes. Be yourself.

To be yourself is a lot less stressful – personally, professionally, and organizationally. It certainly helped me through my first week. Be Yourself! That’s Leader Business.

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