Leadership identity: How to achieve one in the workplace

leadership, leadership identity, human resources, career path, career progress, workplace, workplace ethics, personal development, professional development

“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”
― Aristotle

In many interviews thus far I keep hearing about a candidate wanting to leave a company because there was no recognition for performance or any promotion-related outcome (usually aiming for managerial positions). When I dive a bit deeper into the issue, I realize that many people who are skilled, who deserve promotion, who show really good performance don’t really know how to communicate and/or sell themselves to reach a particular professional goal or better yet, they don’t know how to make a meaningful impact in the workplace through communication, behavior and influence with continuous improvement. Their career progress is stalled because even though their performance is good, its visibility suffers due to insufficient communication skill, character showing, leadership or just plain persistence. There is a couple of specific character traits or behaviors I have used myself which can help to put an employee’s character, leadership skill, performance and everlasting impact on the radar for the possible line manager or the person in charge. It’s nothing complicated really, on the contrary, it’s quite simple actually when you think about it because it involves a certain work ethic and workplace identity management which can propel an employee’s career progress sky high. Let’s break it down.

leadership, leadership identity, human resources, career path, career progress, workplace, workplace ethics, personal development, professional development
Some masks have to be taken down to achieve Leadership Identity

Structure, structure, structure

Can’t say this enough to anyone to whom I speak about workplace ethics and good display of performance. Any task, project, activity or a daily responsibility should be treated with utmost structure. To simplify it, any of the above should be broken down into clear and concise details; for example – any meeting should be carefully met with a prior e-mail containing agenda with specific stipulations so any of the participants know exactly what they’re getting into or what to expect; – any performance management topic from an employee to the line manager should be met with a proactive coordination from the employee, NOT the line manager (especially if that employee aims for a managerial position); – any task/activity which is between the departments in terms of no one bearing the exact responsibility, the employee in question should proactively take it with either the permission from the line manager or just plain notification in the e-mail to them that the task has been taken; – any type of struggle or a cry for help from a fellow colleague should be met with proactive approach from the employee in question to settle the matter, be it by the own admission or an orchestrated activity to solve the issue by someone else/third-party.

Structure breeds proactivity and work habits

The aforementioned scenarios were on the top of my head, just to name a few, but there’s no need to mention anything else because all of it screams one skill in particular – proactivity. Proactivity is what defines leadership in its most basic principle. It is what sums up the drive, ambition, performance and exemplary behavior in one and in turn simplifies how to best achieve leadership identity in the company. Being proactive can help employees channel their efforts with only one thought rather than several because you essentially hit couple of birds with one stone, as mentioned earlier.  Next to proactivity, employees who strive to reach any managerial position should take into account the psychological aspect of workplace habits, both internally on their own and externally with other colleagues. Workplace habits build the professional identity which will, in time, tell whether the employee coincides with the leadership traits or not. This brings us to the next parameter built upon structure and proactivity/work habits…

leadership, leadership identity, human resources, career path, career progress, workplace, workplace ethics, personal development, professional development
Right focus for the right mindset – Leadership identity

Reputation – Guard it with your life

As Robert Greene said in his book „48 Laws of Power“, reputation should really be guarded with life because in many situations, a word of mouth is what will help propel one’s career progress. Structure, proactivity and work habits will create a good reputation in the company for the employee in question which will further strengthen the leadership identity. If all of the aforementioned activities are followed, to a lesser or higher degree, it should usually end up with the positive recognition the employee wants. The flip side of that coin, just to mention it, is a negative reputation for this particular professional goal (which is a managerial position) if the activities aren’t followed. So once the positive reputation is formed in the workplace around the employee in question, the last two key elements on this path to recognition of leadership identity are…

…Consistency and a brief time period

Aristotle said that habits with consistency become excellence and I couldn’t agree more. Once an employee reaches a certain positive reputation and maintains it on the level or even increases it with time, it’s almost guaranteed that promotion will turn up, if the company allows it strategically. Consistency is a trait which is like a test of time to see whether the reputation of structure, proactivity and good work habits was just a fluke or a real fact of the matter. So to summarize this little formula of mine, this is how to make a leadership identity impact…


Structure + proactivity + work habits + consistency with time = leadership identity. Sounds a bit simple when you put it like that but putting it in practice is, of course, a lot harder, especially if the company culture is a bit passive  in regards to these kinds of behaviors in the workplace. But again, an employee should be observant to what degree these activities can take place or be effective. This isn’t an end all be all kind of strategy, but it will help you move things along if you’re interested in leadership identity.

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