Labels and Leadership

Labels and LeadershipPeople are complex machines. We interact with others, experiences and our own internal drivers, the output of which is how we show up in the world. Though there exists a number of models that describe the various ways we behave, think and feel, what is true is we will often modify ourselves according to our environment. The opportunity is knowing this beforehand so we can maximise interactions with others.

Leaders have a choice – they decide what type of leader they want to be. This can be labeled as a servant leader, a charismatic leader, a transformational leader, an instructive leader, or a dictatorial leader. Though the labels present different meanings to different people, a leader is never one or the other all of the time. Leaders, like all people, will either change their method of leadership to maximise the outcomes they are aiming to achieve, and the engagement of their teams in achieving them. As with leaders, so it is with all people. We all have the choice to decide what type of person we wish to be, and how we interact with others.

The popular DISC tool (dominant/influencer/steadiness/compliance – is one tool that lists a set of descriptors grouped into a category. This tool, as with others, helps people name and notice behaviour, helping raise awareness of behaviours that are favourable and not so favourable in order to decide on any actions to take to alter them. At the same time, this tool provide a language of labels that may be adopted, or forced on others, to explain or justify a disposition. It is when the justification occurs because of these labels is when the power of such insights are weakened, removed and destroyed. Tools like DISC serve as signposts that guide the way to further introspection and more productive engagement, but not the solution or final disposition for those that take them.

If you are involved in a team that uses or has used these types of tools, or that like to label people as Dominant, Introverted, an Influencer, or any other label, challenge this. Look out for the many moments where behaviours and dispositions defy the expectations and call them out.

Respect differences and celebrate them. And be ok with the fact you too will think, feel and act in many ways that can be described and labelled by others differently.

A label will not define you. It will not define others. But it can help you decide how you want to show up, and what type of leader you want to be.

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