If I asked you who you are, how would you respond? Most likely, you’d reply with your name and job title, right?
Now, why is that? I didn’t ask you what you DO, I asked you who you ARE. Turns out, a lot of us define ourselves by what we do – turning our day jobs into our identities. Now, don’t get me wrong, your job takes up 40+ of your 168 hours each week so it is a huge part of your life. But why has it become the ultimate identifier for us?
During 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to take part in the FLY (Future Leaders of YMC) program. I could say a lot about the experience and everything it taught me about leadership, the industry, my coworkers and myself. I could write blogs upon blogs about the personal breakthroughs that I made during my time as a FLY participant, but I’ll focus on just one today – my identity.
I learned that being a leader is more than the job title stamped on your name plate.
A higher location in the chain of command does not equate to improved leadership skills, and a change in status does not magically make you a leader. Your actions do. How you motivate your team, how you converse with your coworkers, how you delegate and communicate with your people and how you inspire success in those around you define your leadership skills.
Your identity as a leader should never be contingent on your list of responsibilities or how many commas are in your paycheck. Being a leader is so much more than that. It is taking personal responsibility for your team, helping them to be as successful as possible and pushing them to achieve results they wouldn’t have been able to achieve on their own.
I learned that not all leaders possess the same skills.
Not all leaders are intensely dominant personalities who give inspirational speeches and lead with an iron will. Becoming a better leader doesn’t mean that you change who you are, it means you sharpen your strengths and apply them in a way that benefits those around you. Sure, there are some universal traits that all leaders should possess, but trying to become a carbon copy of America’s “ideal” leader will lead to more stress than success.
Use your strengths, improve on your weakness and never lose sight of how your unique abilities add value to the organization and help those in your charge.
I learned that self-improvement is not selfish.
Taking intentional time for you and working on improving yourself as a leader doesn’t mean you’re neglecting your team or your other tasks. In fact, it is infinitely more beneficial to your team to have a leader who is self-aware and grounded because he or she spends a little extra time a week developing themselves than to have a leader who neglects personal development in exchange for the completion of a few extra tasks.
If you’re focused on becoming a great leader to help your team succeed, everything else will fall into place.
Lastly, I learned that leadership development is never done.
My time in the FLY program might have come to a close, but my personal leadership development process is just beginning. As I continue to grow into my new role here at YMC as the Lead Digital and Social Director, I recognize that my identity as a leader is infinitely more important than my title. I’m so excited to keep learning, to keep discovering, and to keep leading my team!