Losing your identity in your company is something I am encountering far more frequently with clients in recent years.
In any organisation, the roles and responsibilities of individuals are typically well-defined. But what happens when those boundaries start to blur? When do leaders and employees start to feel like they’re losing their sense of self in the company? That’s a problem, and it can have serious consequences for both the individual and the organisation.
A leader’s identity sets the tone for the entire organisation, and it can be a powerful tool for motivating employees and achieving success. To create an effective and cohesive team, leaders need to be conscious of how their own identity is shaping the way employees view their roles within the company. Leaders need to be aware of how their actions are impacting employees, and they should work to maintain a clear distinction between personal identity and professional identity.
Famous Leadership Coach John Whitmore refers to the blurring of those lines as a “leadership trance”, and it can hurt employees who feel as if they’re losing the sense of self that drives them. Leadership trance is detrimental to company culture. Leadership trance goes beyond the realms of typical role confusion; it’s about more than just feeling like you’re losing your sense of self in the company.
In this article, we’ll explore how conscious leadership impacts employee satisfaction and company culture, and we’ll look at how leaders can maintain a clear distinction between their personal and professional identities.
Why identity is important in the workplace
When it comes to the workplace, it’s essential for employees to feel like they’re able to maintain a sense of self. After all, it’s important for people to feel like they’re able to be themselves, and not just another cog in the machine.
There are several reasons why identity is so important in the workplace. For one, it helps employees to feel connected to their work. They’re not just doing a job, they’re part of something larger. It also gives employees a sense of purpose and meaning, which is especially important in today’s world. And finally, it allows employees to express their individuality and creativity.
So, if you’re feeling lost in your job, or like you’ve lost sight of who you are, it’s not a good thing. It can have some pretty serious consequences.
Losing sight of who you are is a warning sign that something is going wrong with your work life. Other signs include:
- Feeling disengaged from your work for a prolonged period
- Losing your job entirely
- Taking up a new hobby or passion that you can’t seem to fit into your work-life balance
Remember, identity isn’t the same as personality. Your personality is who you are, whereas your identity is how people perceive you. In other words, it’s what people see when they look at you, the impression they get.
If you feel like you’ve lost sight of your identity in the workplace, don’t worry. Leadership coaching can help you to gain back that sense of who you are and what matters to you about your work. Leadership coaching is about rediscovering yourself.
It’s about strengthening your leadership skills so that you can go back to the workplace and do what you do best.
In fact, one of my clients referred to himself as a robot. When he came to me, he looked really tired and burnt out. We had to start from scratch to identify what his purpose in life was, let alone his career, and map out what were his priorities. He had lost himself so much in the organisation. Fast forward to his new role and he knows where he ends and the company starts. He looks like a different person – happier, healthier, more joy.
He knows where he wants to achieve balance to pursue his other goals. Where this role fits in with longer term plans. The issue is that when your identity blurs so much with something outside of you – and that something disappears – e.g. job, partner – you feel lost at sea. Therefore understanding yourself, what you stand for and what you want is critical to weather life’s storms.
How to maintain your identity in the company
What happens when your leadership identity is compromised? Leadership has the potential to affect your company in both good and bad ways. Your leadership style sets the tone for how your employees act, which can increase productivity or lead to lost productivity through employee discontent.
Your leadership style also reflects on you as an individual. If there are issues within your leadership capabilities, it can harm your identity as a leader. Leadership is more than just being able to give orders – it requires you to understand the strengths of your employees and how they work, so you can use their skills most effectively.
Leadership requires empathy and understanding. Leadership means always striving for improvement in yourself, but also striving to improve the company as a whole.
When you stop being able to lead, it can be hard on yourself, but it can also harm the rest of your team and the wider organisation. Leadership coaching often starts with you reflecting on your strengths and weaknesses to better understand how to implement them into leadership roles.
Leadership coaching is not just for those who need certification, but for anyone who wants to better themselves as a leader. It’s about finding ways to improve your leadership skills, whether that’s through group or individual sessions. Leadership coaching gives you the freedom and opportunity to explore skills with experts who can help guide you along the way.
It’s also a great way for those new to leadership roles to develop their abilities and find what techniques work best for them, and also a great way for those seasoned leaders to improve their skills.
If you are struggling with leadership or feel like your identity is being compromised, spending time with a coach could be the perfect thing for you. Leadership coaching can provide you with the tools and knowledge needed to lead employees effectively and maintain your identity as a leader.
The danger of losing your identity
When leaders and employees start to feel like they’re losing their sense of self in the company, it can have serious consequences for both the individual and the organisation. A leader’s identity sets the tone for the entire organisation, and it can be a powerful tool for motivating employees and achieving success.
Do you lose your identity when you become a leader? Leadership coach and author of The Leadership Gap, Michael Lee Stallard says yes. He wrote, “When we forget ourselves and lose our sense of identity, we start believing that success comes from what we do instead of who we are.”
According to Dr. Manfred Kets de Vries, a Leadership Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Leadership Development at INSEAD, there are three main reasons why people lose their identity when they become leaders:
- Your environment changes too much
- You have to suppress your personality
- You’re taking on a leadership role that doesn’t fit your personality or values
Losing your identity is a signal that something in your leadership role isn’t right. If you’re finding yourself struggling with one or more of these three reasons for losing your identity, it could be time to reassess your leadership role and determine if it’s the right fit for you. If not, talk to someone about how you can transition to a new role that will suit you better.
What can leaders do if they feel like they’re losing their identity? It all comes down to self-awareness and conscious leadership. Leadership coach, author, and speaker Dr. John M. McKee recommends looking at your life with this question in mind: “Do I know what my strengths are?”
He explains that once you know what you’re good at, it helps to build your identity and sense of self. Leadership trainer and author of Leadership Agility, Dr. Leigh Steven says, “The more we lead with our strengths, the more we can become aware of what’s natural for us.”
If you don’t already know what your leadership strengths are, ask a friend who knows you well to tell you about your strengths. Or, try taking a Leadership Style Profile assessment, or work with a leadership coach. Once you know what your leadership strengths are, it will make it easier for you to forge ahead in your leadership role with confidence and self-esteem.
If companies want to create an authentic company culture they need leaders who are authentically self-aware and express the company’s identity. Leadership trainer Dr. Leigh Steven says, “When we lead authentically we can tap into our positive strengths and be comfortable and satisfied in what we do.”
For more information on how you can become a more authentic and conscious leader, click here for my latest insights and programmes.
If you feel like you are losing your identity in your company, and would like to explore how leadership coaching could help you, contact me to book a free consultation.