Although I have personalized this, I have give credit to Dan Rockwell for this post. Dan’s leadership blog sets a high standard for me, but it is very much what I would like my blog to be. You can find a link to his original post at the end of this post.
Jim Parker, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, was once asked for his favorite advice. He said, “Be yourself.”
This may not seem like very exciting advice, but when a leader with experience leading during difficult times gives advice, you should pay attention.
There is great power in “Be yourself.” The song “I Am A Child of God” describes the core of my identity, both as an individual and as a leader. Everything else, I hope, builds on that.
Dan Rockwell, in his Leadership Freak Blog, discussed being yourself. I have added my own thoughts to his.
#1. “Be yourself,” is self-affirming nonsense unless you give yourself in service.
Sammy Davis Jr. made, “I’ve Gotta be Me,” a hit song in 1968. If you embrace the message of this song, do it in service to others. And Frank Sinatra did it his way, which always seemed pretty selfish to me.
I think Keb’ Mo’s message is better than Sammy’s. See “Everybody Be Yourself” from Sesame Street, or the original album version (sorry, no video).
In the bridge, he sings;
Everybody’s got a will, everybody’s got a way.
Everybody got to listen to what everybody say.
Everybody got a nighttime, everybody got a day.
Everybody’s got to give a little love away.
Everybody’s got to stand up if you’re gonna be free.
Everybody got to know how to live in harmony.
A life lived in service to itself is a colossal waste; a life given in service to others is a life well-lived.
“I’m just being myself” is never a good excuse for poor behavior or failure to lead.
#2. “Be yourself,” stabilizes your leadership in turbulent times.
If you don’t know who you are, you end up tossed in the wind. You lose yourself to the expectations of others. Everyone’s advice seems good.
Being yourself is making forward-facing choices that align with your aspirations, affirm your values and leverage your strengths. And in difficult times, you don’t have to try to remember who you said you were.
#3. Don’t simply, “Be yourself.” Be your aspirational self.
Leadership demands personal growth. A leader who is not growing cannot lead effectively.
Aspiration adds dignity and direction to self-discovery.
Get a picture of who you aspire to become and live up to your aspiration.
Your aspirational story is important. Begin with formative aspects of your story.
- What stories do you frequently share about yourself? What do those stories say about you?
- How are you like your parents or relatives?
- How has adversity shaped you?
Use your story as a beginning, not an end. And don’t be afraid to share your story.
Tip: Include others in the process of self-discovery. What do others see in you? You never know yourself in isolation.
What does Jim Parker’s advice – Be Yourself – mean to you?
What prevents leaders from being themselves?
Read the original blog post here.