Develop Your Leadership Identity

As a leader some of the most important questions you’ll answer are those that help you define your leadership identity. Leadership identity is the way you see yourself, and the way you want others to perceive you. To elevate your leadership, here are five critical questions to help you develop your unique leadership identity.

1. Who am I?

2. What do I value?

3. What do I want?

4. What is required?

5. Am I willing?


1. Who Am I?

This philosophical question about identity can either drive you crazy or give you clarity. Rather than going down a rabbit hole, arguing about whether it matters or not, make a decision:  Who do you want to be? What does that look like in your language, behavior, habits, and demeanor? You get to decide!

In my consulting work, that one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen new leaders face is one of identity. When new leaders go from “one of us” to “one of them” they go through an identity crisis.

Answer the question: Who am I as a leader? That one simple decision will guide your other decision-making, because identity drives behavior. As you grow, your definition of who you are may change. That’s OK, but start with a definition and build on it.

2. What do I Value?

Once you declare your values there’s no more hiding. You can no longer fool yourself or others. You say you value courage? No more avoiding difficult conversations. You say you value kindness? Now where does your sarcasm fit in? Is it still appropriate to use your sense of humor to put others down? Stating your values helps you to lead from integrity—to align your walk with your talk.

3. What Do I Want?

If you observe people who complain obsessively, one thing they all have in common is that they know what they don’t want, but very often they cannot clearly articulate what they do want. In all drama there is always a lack of clarity. Hinting, manipulating, and beating around the bush are behaviors of one who does not know how to ask for what she wants. Knowing what you want, and knowing how to ask for what you want reduces drama and increases the likelihood of getting what you want.

4. What is Required?

It’s one thing to know what you want. It’s another to know what is required to get what you want. Leaders see this paradox all the time, where an employee wants the promotion but either does not know what is required or is not willing to do what is required. Knowing what’s required helps you gain the appropriate skills, mindsets, and partnerships to actually achieve your objective. In addition, knowing what’s required gives you a chance to re-evaluate whether or not you really want what you say you want.

5. Am I Willing?

A recipe for failure is to know what you want and know what’s required yet be unwilling to take the required action. Willingness almost always involves either courage, change, or sacrifice. You may have to make an investment of money or time. You may have to learn a new skill. You must definitely learn how to cope with discomfort. Knowing what you are willing or not willing to do guides you in decision-making, helps you think critically and ensures that you have the right attitude before undertaking a new project or initiative. No matter what you visualize, what you value, what you desire, nothing happens without willingness to do what is required.


When you define your leadership identity, clearly articulate your desires, lead and live by your values, and you are willing to do what is required, you build the leadership identity to help you become the leader you are meant to be.


This article originally published on LinkedIn as part of The Marlene Chism Newsletter.