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Leading From Who You Are

Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Dr. Jase Teoh, Senior Director of Academic Technology at CSU Maritime Academy. She is a MOR alum. Jase may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.

It is incredible that I embarked on the MOR journey with many of my West Coast colleagues from various institutions just a year ago. Through this experience, I have worn multiple hats – participant, observer, listener, and learner – each contributing to a richer understanding of leadership. Among the highlights were the leadership journeys, which, alongside the informal camaraderie with fellow MOR participants, left an indelible mark on my experience.

As I ponder once again the essence of leadership, one word resonates deeply: values. I am referring not to external metrics but to the internal compass, the True North, that guides our actions. I saw this so clearly in my cohort’s leadership journeys. I firmly believe that effective leadership stems from a profound understanding of one’s purpose and convictions—the driving force behind our daily endeavors, whether in the office or remotely.

Allow me to share a personal reflection. This past academic year was challenging, marked by a decline in budget and enrollment across higher education. The landscape of leadership, once seemingly steadfast, now appears in flux, with changes at the helm and administrators called to step down. In navigating these setbacks, I have recognized that not all managers embody authentic leadership, nor do all leaders serve as mentors. Indeed, many are driven by the allure of prestige or recognition rather than a genuine commitment to their team or institution.

Yet amidst the noise, leaders who lead from a place of authenticity exist – individuals whose moral convictions guide their every action. They prioritize the well-being of their team and institution above personal gain, fostering an environment of trust and collaboration. However, such leaders, though invaluable, are often overshadowed by those driven solely by ambition or self-interest.

I have resolved to delve deeper into my identity as a leader. As I embrace the notion of leading from within, I find solace in the unwavering values of consistency, integrity, and respect. For me, faith serves as an anchor, grounding my moral compass in times of uncertainty.

Recently, I listened to the Leadership Podcast by Craig Groeschel, featuring an interview with Dr. Rob Hoskins. He discussed the concept of intellectual humility, which resonated deeply with me. Many workplace issues, particularly in academia, stem from “ego”—the belief that our solutions are always correct, our answers are the only valid ones, and our methods are the best. This mindset makes us unable to listen, consider other perspectives, step down, admit faults, or simply say, “I don’t know.” The inability to practice intellectual humility often comes from seeing ourselves as superior, driven by insecurity, a need for competition, or a desire for recognition. This insight ties back to my emphasis on consistency, integrity (who are you when no one is looking?), and respect.

I pose this question to you: Who are you as a leader?

Take a moment to reflect on your core values, aspirations, and vision for leadership. Consider the legacy you wish to leave behind and the impact you hope to make. Let these reflections serve as the foundation upon which your leadership journey unfolds.

As you consider defining who you are as a leader, I offer these guiding principles:

  • Define your values and stay true to them.
  • Define a limited number of values, say a top 3. Otherwise, a long list can become diluted and ineffective.
  • Treat others with kindness and empathy.  
  • Strive for excellence, but not at the expense of integrity.
  • Embrace diversity as an opportunity for growth.
  • Above all, lead with situational authenticity and compassion.

Situational authenticity could sound like a contradiction in terms. Authenticity means being true to yourself regardless of the situation. The idea of situational authenticity builds upon this idea and recognizes each situation’s uniqueness. So, for example, if kindness and empathy are authentic values of yours, the idea with situational authenticity is that they may be applied differently in different circumstances, while the value remains consistent.  

Exploring kindness and empathy further, while kindness often stems from empathy, it is not limited to it. Kindness manifests compassionate actions, whereas empathy is the emotional understanding that can drive those actions.

Integrity is the area of focus most important to me as I define who I am as a leader. Integrity is about being true to oneself and maintaining consistency between one’s values, actions, and decisions. It encompasses honesty, ethical behavior, and moral principles, guiding how one conducts oneself both publicly and privately.

Why Integrity?

  • Trust Building: Integrity fosters trust. When team members see that a leader’s actions align with their words and values, it creates a foundation of trust and respect.
  • Consistency: Integrity ensures consistency in decision-making, which helps create a stable and predictable environment for the team.
  • Role Modeling: As a leader, demonstrating integrity sets a powerful example for others to follow, promoting a culture of honesty and ethical behavior within the organization.
  • Long-term Success: Leaders with integrity build a strong reputation that contributes to sustainable success, as stakeholders are more likely to support and engage with leaders they trust.

In leadership, integrity means being transparent, admitting mistakes, and making decisions that align with ethical standards and the best interests of the team and organization. It is about being accountable and standing by one’s principles, even when faced with challenges.

Integrity is the cornerstone of effective leadership, enabling leaders to inspire and lead with authenticity and respect.

Who you are as a leader is a journey of self-discovery that evolves but remains rooted in your core beliefs. Embrace this journey wholeheartedly, for it is through leading from within that we inspire meaningful change and create a legacy worth leaving behind.

“Leadership is about the team – the culture they keep and embrace, it’s about empathy for your customers, clients, employees and the communities where you do business, it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons, being confident enough to take risks and responsible enough to think of those who your decisions and risks may affect.” – Kat Cole, COO & President of FOCUS Brands.

As we approach the Fourth of July, when we celebrate the founding of a nation built on principles of freedom and authenticity, it’s a perfect moment to reflect on these values in our lives. Just as our country defined its authentic self, we too should strive to embody consistency, integrity, and respect. By embracing intellectual humility, we grow as individuals and contribute to a more collaborative and respectful community, honoring the spirit of authenticity that the Fourth of July represents.

Which area of focus is most important to you as you define who you are as a leader?

Two weeks ago, we asked where will you benefit most from putting focus as you consider advancing your intentional relationship-building efforts.

  • 49% said mindset
  • 27% said skillset
  • 24% said toolset

It is no surprise nearly half of us identified mindset. Our mindset provides the foundation upon which we build and practice our skillset and toolset. Our mindset provides direction and focus to the skillset and toolset we choose to apply. As discussed in today’s insight, even more broadly we want to define who we are as a leader, which our mindset helps to influence. Once we have that foundation, we then build the skillset and toolset that enables our actions to manifest our ideals.