I once read that identity is an intersection of how others see you and how you see yourself. As much as we want to define how we want others see us, I think that’s pretty much impossible. We can certainly try to influence others’ perception of us but ultimately, what matters is how others see us. I believe that’s called reputation. The concept of identity is a complex one. It’s even more complex when one considers the role of identity in the context of social setting. When we are associated with groups, such as the organization we work for, we assume the organization’s identity and the organization’s identity is shaped by its individual members. Actions by individual members reflect the organization and other members while the organization’s identity impacts how its members are perceived. Have you ever walked into a meeting where you’ve never met anyone before yet they’ve already formed an impression of you?
Those in leadership position must sometimes have to negotiate and reconcile their own identities and values they hold with that of their organization as they don’t always match. So, how do leaders authentically represent themselves when they’re representing their organization? What does it mean in this context to represent “themselves”? Are they representing their individual identities independent of the organization or are they representing identities defined by their role in the organization?
I think about the questions above when I hear from individuals who maintain they want to be authentic to themselves and to the values they represent. Considering the possibility that there probably isn’t an organization anywhere that completely aligns with the values of each and every single one of its members, how will those individuals deal with this reality?