Start Your Leadership Story

By Desda Moss Jul 22, 2015

fish_swarm.jpgBy Nancy Woolever

It’s never too early in your HR career to think about the kind of leader you want to be. I recently read a great book that every early-career HR professional should read.

Timothy J. Tobin's Your Leadership Story: Use Your Story to Energize, Inspire and Motivate is full of helpful information and useful tips. The book takes a different approach to the popular topic of leadership. What differentiates Tobin’s book is the idea of creating your leadership story. This task requires introspection: deciding who you are and what your leadership story is. Throughout the book, readers follow “Bob” as he embarks on a leadership journey. In the process, readers have an opportunity to examine the harder issues that accompany one’s evolution from individual contributor to leader.

The book prompts readers to:

  • Answer tough questions that will help define who you are as an individual and ultimately the type of leader you want to be. Then, the real work begins. That involves developing a deeper understanding of yourself; behaving consistently; and creating a story so that those who follow you have a clear idea of what you believe in, how you lead and what you expect as a leader. Scary stuff, introspection. But defining who you are and examining what you value is the foundation of your leadership story, Tobin contends. 
  • Work through a series of activities to create your personal leadership story. The exercises in the book guide you through defining your story’s plot; developing other characters; identifying potential conflicts and finding ways to handle them; determining your leadership theme; and, ultimately, defining your story’s arc. Where do you want the story to go? What do you see as the high point of your career? What's your purpose? Perhaps most important, what is your plan for sharing your leadership story? 
  • Leverage others to tell your story for you. If you invest the time to define your story, and act in a way that authentically remains true to it, others will share it. Perfection is not required, but consistency is.

Tobin’s book offers readers an interesting pathway to discover their own leadership style. The resources provided throughout the book and in the appendices help readers navigate their own journey in order to create a personal story and inspire others to action. I see a clear link between the approach the book takes and the SHRM Competency Model. By refining what you know and then logically translating that knowledge into action, you can become the leader you always wanted to be.  And, in the process, you’ll become someone others want to follow. 

Nan​cy Woolever, @SHRMacademics on Twitter, is director, academic initiatives, for the Society for Human Resource Management.

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