Are You a Leader With an Identity Crisis?


Getting in touch with your real self must be your first priority. – Tom Hopkins

A story is told of the renowned artist Paul Gustave Dore who lost his passport while traveling in Europe. When he came to a border crossing, he explained his predicament to one of the guards. Giving his name to the official, Dore hoped he would be recognized and allowed to pass.

The guard, however, said that many people attempted to cross the border by claiming to be persons they were not. Dore insisted that he was the man he claimed to be. “All right,” said the official, “we’ll give you a test, and if you pass it we’ll allow you to go through.” Handing him a pencil and a sheet of paper, he told the artist to sketch several peasants standing nearby. Dore did it so quickly and skillfully that the guard was convinced he was indeed who he claimed to be. His work confirmed his word.

It cannot be overstated how important your identity is as a leader. If you have a false sense of identity it will create a void in your leadership that will hurt you. Understanding your identity is Leadership 101 but if you don’t get this you will pay a price.

Are you a leader with an identity crisis? Here are three ways to find out.

You rely on your title instead of your values

This is a common mistake with new leaders. Leaders who do this tend to overplay their hand because they think their title or position carries enough clout to lead. This approach is an identity crisis waiting to happen. Here’ why.

When your values and character take a back seat to a title or position then it’s likely that you will wash out at some point. In, The 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell states, “Your values are the soul of your leadership and they drive your behavior.” And this is the crux of your identity. Better to hold tight to your values than try to muscle your way to the top without them.

Key takeaway: In the end, what defines you as a leader is not your title or position; it’s your character and values. Whenever you confuse the two you are having an identity crisis.

You rely on rules instead of relationships

Leaders who rely squarely on their title as a means to enforce their rules tend to miss the big picture about relationships. Its been said that rules without relationships breeds rebellion. And when you are more concerned about dictating rules and regulations than you are about building relationships then you are a leader with an identity crisis. Here’s why this matters.

People tend to follow leaders they like and respect. If your people only see you as the office Sherriff and not someone they can relate to on a personal level then you are depreciating your potential as a leader. At the end of the day your people want a leader they can relate to not one that they fear.

Key takeaway: When you are heavy on relationships you can be light on the rules.  Now you can devote your time and energy to what matters most – your people and your shared success.

You rely on receiving instead of giving

The magnitude and duration of your identity crisis in leadership is contingent upon learning these basic tenants. In short; it’s not about you. The depth, length, and reach of your leadership will never be measured by what you receive but by what you give. Here’s why it matters.

Leaders are givers. True leadership is about reproducing and raising up more leaders – not more followers. When this truth comes to light it creates a paradigm shift in your thinking, your actions, and your motives. J. Donald Walters expressed it this way, “Leadership is an opportunity to serve. It is not a trumpet call to self-importance.” Do the math: Creating more followers is about addition. Creating more leaders is about multiplication.

Key takeaway: Be generous. Don’t measure your success as a leader by accolades or plaques, but by how you invested your time, talents, and treasure in the lives of those you served.

What do you say?


© 2015 Doug Dickerson





About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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2 Responses to Are You a Leader With an Identity Crisis?

  1. Pingback: Are You a Leader With an Identity Crisis? | lizstincelli

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