Identity harbours our sense of self, organises how we understand ourselves, and how we establish our sense of self-worth, self-esteem, personal value, and security. Identity defines who we are, organises much of our behaviour, and how we establish ourselves in the world.
Identity drives how we take up our role in situations and how we deploy ourselves moment to moment. There we generate patterns of results that are consistent with how our identity is structured.
Northwestern University psychologist Dan McAdams is an expert on a concept he calls Narrative identity, ie a person’s internalized and evolving life story, integrating the reconstructed past and imagined future to provide life with some degree of unity and purpose.
McAdams describes narrative identity as an internalized story we create about ourselves, which for most of us is the only reality we know. Our identity (story) is established by self-defining beliefs and assumptions drawn from emotionally powerful experiences throughout life, both positive and painful experiences. These beliefs are also installed by important people in our lives. We adopt these assumptions, we live by them, we reinforce them, we don’t think about them anymore, they are just seen as true…our identity.
When identity evolves, so do we, as do the results we get in the world. Effective leaders embrace a growing awareness of their identity (inner story) and the assumptions upon which it is based. As our identity transforms, so does our leadership. This is the hero’s journey that people often refer to as ‘finding themselves’, discovering their ‘authentic self’, where we enjoy new levels of inner freedom and creative capacity, no longer living up to others expectations, but living up to our own.
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