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
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