You are you.
The way you are anywhere is the way you are everywhere.
The way you are at work is the way you are at home.
The way you treat your waiter is the way you treat your spouse.
The way you react to a bad call on the court is the way you react to your kid when you feel frustrated.
How we do anything is how we do everything.
It’s a package deal.
The best leaders understand this, and they don’t try to be different in different settings. They are just themselves, no matter if they’re having dinner with their family or running a board meeting. Sure, different sides of you (because you’re a leader too) may be amplified or highlighted in one setting or another, but there is no front, no pretense, no facade.
People see through facades quickly, and the typical response is anywhere from cold neutrality to subtle (even sometimes unconscious) disdain.
People also recognize when you’re being true to yourself and they love it. They respect it. When you are being yourself, it gives them permission to be themselves and it also allows people to see the whole you.
And when people see the whole you, they will appreciate a universal truth: Often our weaknesses are also our strengths. My Aunt says that people’s worst qualities are just their best qualities with the volume turned up. I love that.
Your friends respect your high standards, but they don’t love when you lash out at them for not meeting your standards without any empathy.
Your child loves how playful you are, but doesn’t love how when you just try to make jokes when they want to have a serious conversation.
Sometimes it’s really subtle: Your employees love how much you respect their intellect and autonomy, but don’t always love when you give them leeway to make every decision. Sometimes they just want you to LEAD and make the call.
It’s a lot easier to be mindful of your volume than it is to pretend to be someone you’re not. And if you turn it up from time to time, well congratulations, you’re a human.
Recently I was speaking with a leader who was considering whether or not to be more aggressive and dominate at work in an effort to motivate his employees to level up.
He was focused on the negative aspects of being “too nice”, “too calm” and “too generous.” But then we talked about how those qualities contributed to a successful company culture, good employee retention, and better team morale, he realized that maybe he simply needed to “turn the volume down” in certain situations and figure out ways to motivate people within the framework of his natural leadership style. You can be kind and ALSO express disappointment. You can be calm and ALSO express urgency.
But if you really do want to change your personality and become more X, Y, or Z, just remember - it’s a package deal.
The consequence of changing who we are in one setting is that we change who we become in all settings.
We are in a constant state of becoming. And we get to choose who we become. Do we want to slowly hardwire our future self to be more aggressive knowing that person will show up at home as well as at work? Or do we want to become more caring, knowing that it may mean we’re a bit softer in negotiations AND we’re more loving to our aging parents. It’s a package deal.
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Peter Koehler's Writing Archive