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An Excessive Need to be Me

Few things can discredit a leader faster than being perceived as phony. Sometimes, leaders will say what they don’t believe or they sugarcoat the truth so people hear what they want to hear. While these words may appeal to their aspirations, they’re really adopted for appearances. They’re window dressing for cultures that still operate in rigid and ineffective leadership models.

A leader’s words may reflect their ideals, but they also reveal how their personal faults have corrupted their delivery. However, we often come across this conflict between executing the role of a leader while at the same time being anxious to remain ‘authentic’ to oneself – the need to be “me”.

There is much literature about being comfortable in who you are and ‘finding your authentic self’ and the thrust of these seems to be along the lines of accepting yourself so that you achieve happiness and contentment. As a leader though you are being asked to play a role and in many circumstances, the last person the company needs is your authentic self!

Many leaders we meet struggle with this seeming duplicitous behavior – remaining themselves and yet having to play a role which requires from time to time that they need to say certain things and act in a certain way which is not normally how they would naturally behave.

One of the 20 annoying habits discussed in his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, by Dr. Marshall Goldsmith is “an excessive need to be me.” What do we mean by “an excessive need to be me?”

According to Goldsmith each of us has a range of behaviors that we define as “me.” These are the behaviors, both positive and negative, that we think of as what makes us who we are. While many of these “me” behaviors may be positive (e.g., “I am smart” or “I am hard working”), some may be negative (e.g., “I am a bad listener” or “I am always late”).

This is a chronic behavior as we consider these things as our unalterable essence. If we’re extremely poor at returning phone calls — whether because we’re overcommitted, we’re simply rude or we believe if people really need to talk to us they’ll call again until they get through — we mentally give ourselves a pass every time we fail to get back to callers: “Hey, that’s me. Deal with it.”

It’s easy to make a virtue of our flaws — simply because flaws constitute what we think of as “me.” This is one of the toughest obstacles to making positive long term change in our behavior. But it doesn’t need to be. That’s because it’s not about you. It’s about what other people think of you.

The less you focus on your need to “be me” and the more you consider your role as a leader and what your people are feeling and need from you, the more it will benefit you. We need to realize that we can shed our “excessive need to be me” and yet not be a phony.

So can we ever be happy if we play a role that requires us to be something other than our authentic selves? We believe that it is possible because as a leader, the need to be ‘we’ takes priority of the need to be ‘me’………

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