Who's the Character in My Character-Based Leadership Style?
I’ve been self-employed for a decade (more if you look closely), but it wasn’t until this year that I became an entrepreneur and began to see my leadership style shift closer to authenticity.
What’s the change and why is it affecting my leadership style and character?
Unlike a self-employed person who just wants to pay the bills, I have taken on the challenge of building an actual business (two, actually). For the first time since taking the leap and living without a corporate paycheck, I have aspirations to create something bigger than me, services and products that scale beyond me, reach more people and support more people as well.
In building a business, I’m noticing a distinct shift in my leadership style. I’m becoming more directive and decisive. I’ve never NOT been these things, but working for myself I had more leeway and playroom to indulge my collaborative tendencies. I was a contractor/consultant who’s mission was to serve the client. The client always came first and my business was second. I was second. Now, we are peers. We both run businesses.
How Shifts In My Leadership Style Cost Me My Biggest Client
What brought this shift to my attention was when I was discussing a project continuation with my biggest client and they declined. In my heart I wasn’t surprised (see below), and I wasn’t even terribly disappointed (see below), but I was still puzzled. All the signs pointed to the project’s continuation, so what went wrong? Well, looking back, several things, but the key one was that I forgot to go into that meeting with my “consultant listening hat” on.
I had just rushed out of a meeting for my new business, where I was making decisions and commitments and I simply forgot to listen first. Bush league mistake for a consultant – one I might have made eight years ago. Oops.
That’s when I noticed the shift in myself and how I’d taken on this new habit of no-BS ownership in my leadership style that I’ve come to believe defines the entrepreneurial character. Entrepreneurs are skating on thin ice when it comes to all resources (time, money, people etc). They use their gut because it’s cheaper than a research firm; they get into the trenches because there’s no one else there to do it; they make mistakes and move on quickly; and they treat all financial expenditures as if it was their own money, because it is!
In the discussion with my client, she asked me for my recommendation, and I gave it to her in this style, focused on how she could quickly take advantage of missed opportunities, give her team new opportunities to expand themselves to build their leadership capabilities and maximize resources. I spoke about intangibles like “leadership style” and “creativity.” I had my authentic, entrepreneurial character fully engaged. But…. this is the part I forgot… she’s in an organization about as far from the entrepreneurial end of the spectrum as you can get. <
My advice fell flat. This wasn’t what she had wanted to hear and if I’d had my consultants listening hat on, I’d have remembered that and adjusted.
My New Leadership Character – My Magician
But here’s why I’m ok with what happened. In building and launching my businesses this year, I’ve taken a new approach to leading and presenting myself, relying on and trusting my own, personal character more than ever before. Even though I’ve been a marketing executive and consultant for over 15 years in a previous life, I’m taking a fresh new approach that my corporate experience never prepared me for. I’m focused on building my personal brand and placing it as the beating heart of my businesses.
I’m using a unique approach based on the work of Dr. Carol Pearson (author, The Hero And The Outlaw) and taught by my good friend and colleague, Cindy Atlee of the Storybranding Group. Working with Cindy I was able to identify my personal archetype, the one that fuels me with passion and joy. My archetype turns out to be the Magician and when I let my Magician through to start writing my web copy and talk to prospects and partners, not only did I light up, but so did everyone else!
Through this archetypal character, my Magician tapped into one of my most closely held, core beliefs – that each one of us carries within us all the power we need to succeed – and the InPower brand of online coaching and consulting businesses were born.
We usually talk about “character” as personal qualities, like self-awareness, collaboration, wisdom, empathy. All these things make up “character” but not a living breathing character, which is what each of us is! Carl Jung’s archetypes give us intuitively accessible frameworks that operate holistically to bring those character traits forth where we can become more intentional about integrating them into our leadership style – and more.
Tapping into my Magician brought forth the too-quiet-for-my-business part of me driven to evoke magic inside others. My business began to focus on helping others access their inner power to make the ah-ha! connection – which is the exact thing they need to guide them on their unique path to success. With the power of my Magician, I have not only branded my business more authentically, but I’ve tuned into new clients who value me more – they are looking for magic!
The client I lost this summer wasn’t really looking for a Magician. My magical ah-ha! the day the contract wasn’t extended was my realization that in seeking clients who don’t really value the best, most unique and passionate parts of me inhibits me from living my own core beliefs, values and characters most fully. By contrast, living my character, and the values and beliefs that she brings to the fore in my life, I attract more of the clients who do value me for who I am at my most authentic. I’m now on the lookout for clients who embody the Explorer, the Creator and more because they pal with the Magician so nicely.
What character are you?
Cindy Atlee and I will be co-hosting an online webinar for entrepreneurs to explore their own personal archetype. Registrants gain free access to her professional personality typing tool, so if you’re interested to learn what archetype fuels your passion and style, sign up today! (We’re holding another session in November for corporate leaders, so to be notified when that’s available, subscribe to updates here.)
Have you used archetypes before? There are plenty of systems out there and I’d love to learn about your experiences!
Photo Credit: The Quantum Tarot