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Identity: The Heartbeat of Leadership

In the world of leadership, what we see on the surface is often just the tip of the

iceberg. Just like the majestic icebergs that reveal only a fraction of their mass above the

waterline while hiding their substantial bulk beneath, leaders too have layers that may

not be readily apparent. In the realm of leadership coaching, these layers are

represented by identity and reputation—two intertwined aspects that shape a

leader's journey.

Below the surface: Leaders’ identity

Imagine the iceberg model — a powerful metaphor for understanding human behavior.

Above the waterline, we observe the behaviors and actions that leaders take in their

professional lives. These are the visible manifestations of leadership — the tip of the

iceberg that others witness and evaluate. However, beneath the waterline lies the

hidden driving fears, values, beliefs, and personal history that shape a leader's identity

Leadership coaching dives into the waters, exploring this submerged portion of the

iceberg. It seeks to understand the roots of a leader's actions and decisions by

unraveling their core identity. Just as an iceberg's mass influences its stability and

journey through the currents, a leader's identity profoundly impacts their leadership

style, values, and vision for the future.

In the world of leadership, a leader's identity is the blueprint for their leadership

journey. It encompasses their values, beliefs, strengths, and vulnerabilities. It's the

internal compass that guides their decisions and actions. However, like the submerged

portion of an iceberg, a leader's identity is often hidden from plain view. It's an intricate

web of life experiences, personal values, and deep beliefs, and it plays a pivotal role in

shaping their leadership path.

The perception of leadership: Reputation

Reputation, on the other hand, is the reflection of leadership that others perceive. It's

like the mirror that reflects back what people see, experience, and feel in the presence

of a leader. A leader's reputation is influenced by their behaviors, decisions, and impact

on their team and organization. This external perception can be influenced by 360 -

degree assessments, which gather feedback from peers, subordinates, and superiors.

360-degree assessments are valuable tools for gaining insights into a leader's

reputation. They provide a view of how a leader is perceived by others within their

professional sphere. However, they represent just one perspective—a reflection of the

behaviors observed above the waterline. While they offer valuable feedback, they may

not capture the entirety of a leader's identity, which lies beneath the surface.

In essence, reputation is what others see, while identity is who a leader truly is.

Leadership coaching navigates the intricate dance between these two elements, helping

leaders align their behaviors with their authentic identity. It seeks to bridge the gap

between perception and reality, ensuring that a leader's reputation accurately reflects

their core values, beliefs, and aspirations.

Let's dive into the story of Sarah, an entrepreneur with a strong passion for

sustainability and ethical business practices. Her identity as a leader is firmly rooted in

this core value, and it's the driving force behind her decisions to implement eco-friendly

initiatives within her startup. Even when faced with the challenge of investing extra

effort and resources, Sarah's identity as an environmentally conscious leader shines


Reputation: The Echo of Leadership

On the flip side, a leader's reputation is the echo of their leadership efforts — a

reflection of their actions, decisions, and the ripple effect they create in the world. It's

akin to a mirror that faithfully reveals the image that others perceive. In the natural

world, animals often exhibit behaviors to establish their reputation within their group or

ecosystem. Picture this: a grand scene in the animal kingdom where a peacock unfurls its vibrant feathers. This flamboyant display isn't merely about aesthetics; it's a dynamic

exhibition of vitality, an effort to attract potential mates. Similarly, a leader's reputation mirrors

their leadership vitality, competence, and the impact they have on their team and


The Balancing Act: Lessons from Nature

Nature, that wise and cher, offers profound insights into the interplay of identity and

reputation. Just as a timeless teatree's identity is deeply embedded in its genetic code,

determining its growth pattern and characteristics, a leader's identity sets the course

for their leadership voyage. But here's where it gets fascinating — much like a tree

casting a shadow on the forest floor, a leader's reputation can influence their

surroundings and shape the perceptions of those around them.

In the natural world, predators often showcase traits that reflect their identity —

strength, speed, or adaptability — while remaining mindful of their reputation within

their ecosystem. Think of a leopard's stealthy approach — it allows them to maintain

their reputation as an apex predator while staying true to their identity as a solitary


Leadership Coaching: Cultivating Identity and Reputation

Leadership coaching, a transformative process akin to tending a delicate garden,

nurtures both identity and reputation. Coaches work hand in hand with leaders to

harmonize their actions with their core values, ensuring that their identity radiates

through their leadership style. Simultaneously, these coaches serve as navigators,

helping leaders traverse the terrain of reputation. They provide valuable feedback and

guidance to ensure that every action aligns with the leader's intended impact.

Consider Sarah's journey — leadership coaching steps in to assist her in articulating

her sustainability initiatives more effectively to her team and stakeholders. Through this

process, she can ensure that her reputation as an environmentally conscious leader is a

faithful reflection of her identity. This alignment fosters trust and confidence among

those she leads.

The Crescendo: Harmony in Leadership

Just as nature thrives when there's a harmonious balance between its identity and

its role within an ecosystem, leaders flourish when their identity resonates with their

reputation. Leadership coaching orchestrates this symphony, fine-tuning leaders;

identities and ensuring that their reputations resound with their intended impact.

As leaders embark on this transformative journey, they draw inspiration from the

natural world, where identity and reputation dance in harmony, shaping the future.

Much like a tree's roots anchor it in the soil while its branches reach for the sky,

leaders grounded in their identity can ascend to greater heights, all while nurturing

a reputation that positively influences their team and organization.

In the ever-evolving landscape of leadership, the delicate balance between identity and

reputation remains an enduring lesson from nature — a lesson that leadership

coaching helps leaders embrace and translate into their own unique legacies.

So, as you reflect on your own leadership journey, remember the wisdom of nature

and the transformative power of aligning your identity with your reputation. It's a

journey that promises profound personal and professional growth, and ultimately, the

flourishing of your leadership legacy—a legacy that echoes through the ages.


Learn more from Nature with our Leadership Development with Horses

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