Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Leadership Identity

Volume: March 2011

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


When I was in China recently I had an opportunity to observe a variety of Chinese managers. While most of my observations took place in manufacturing facilities, several were in service-oriented settings. So what was the common leadership style I observed? The answer: pretty darn directive and authoritarian. Were the subordinates I observed compliant? Answer: you betcha – I do not believe they had many alternatives. My experience got me thinking about the topic of leadership identity, which means: “How do you want to be described or remembered as a leader?” A few of the many areas that can identify the legacy and reputation of a leader are shown below.  


  1. Followership – Creating an atmosphere where team members willingly follow a leader is no small task. It takes a leader who has a consistent leadership approach, yet is agile in their thinking. The leaders I know who have the best followership are very intentional with regard to coaching and mentoring their team members. If received religiously, many times team members do not even realize they have been coached. Followership is also fostered when team members know that their leader is courageous in support of the team, and combative when appropriate.


  1. Leadership Methodology – The methods and tools used by leaders says a lot about their style and effectiveness. Do you use dashboards and metrics to help you track results? What about techniques such as MBWA (managing by wandering around) and small talk is big talk? Are your methods consistent or are they scattered? How your team perceives your leadership methodology probably mirrors how they describe you to others.      


  1. Comfort with Leadership – If you are comfortable in your leadership skin, it will show. It will also help team members to be confident about your ability to lead and direct. If you feel awkward as a leader, you will look awkward as a leader. Your people will notice this and it will put them on edge as a result. If you do not believe this, consider a concert conductor who appears disorganized, or a quarterback who appears fearful as he calls out a play. Their team can tell that things are not optimal. Seek to be confident, and you will optimize results in the process.  


  1. Succession Development – Grooming your potential replacement is a large part of your leadership identity. Many low-skill or low-confidence leaders purposely do not develop others because they fear they will be replaced by the person they groom. In the process they withhold information that would otherwise help a team member to grow and the team to flourish. What these leaders fail to recognize is that the ability to coach, to teach, to improve others is one of the best qualities a leader can possess. By skillfully providing succession alternatives, a leader illustrates that they are invaluable to the organization and can be useful in an array of capacities. If you have not identified and begun to groom a potential successor, please do so today.


In closing, in order to take stock of your leadership identity, answer the following questions:

  1. Do I have followership? If so, do they follow me for the right reasons or because of my title?
  2. Have I developed a leadership methodology, or am I really a manager whose leadership techniques are all over the board?
  3. Am I comfortable in my leadership skin? In other words, does my preferred style suit me and the goals that my team needs to accomplish? Also, do I possess a variety of styles that get the job done, and am I comfortable with them?
  4. Are the high-potential members of my team being developed to move into my position and beyond?


Now plan an appropriate strategy, take action, and continue to elevate your leadership acumen!


Until next time, be well.


Doug Van Dyke is a leadership and collaboration consultant, executive coach, and strategic planner. He is also the author of Leadership Simplified – THE Field Guide for Savvy Leaders.  Doug’s audios and videos are also available atwww.leadershipsimplified.com. To learn more about consulting services, coaching, and training, or to have Doug help your team work together better, contact him today at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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