Do you know what you stand for? - Michelle Gibbings

It was the brilliant Oscar Wilde who said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”shutterstock_333883946

And yet in many quarters of society we see people who lose their voice and authenticity in an attempt to be liked by everyone or to appease both sides of an ideological divide.

The same thing happens to people working in the corporate world.   In their effort to build relationships and build an internal support base they lose sight of who they are and what they stand for.

Losing your identity

Why? Because they think to be influential and successful they need to be someone other than themselves.  And they think they need to change their views to be the same as the people they want to impress.

Consequently, they lose their identity, causing enormous damage to their confidence and sense of self-worth.

Research shows that when a person stops being their authentic self it causes psychological distress, which can have ongoing emotional and physical ramifications.

It also impacts how people perceive and relate to them.

For example, colleagues and team-mates will see when a person shifts and changes their behaviour and ideas.  They’ll notice the disconnect between what the person says and what they do.

This breeds distrust as the person’s credibility and integrity is in doubt.  Once that happens it becomes far harder, if not impossible, for them to build a coalition of support for ideas and projects they are leading.  Any influence they had is gone!

Be authentic and stand up

When people no longer know what you stand for they start to question the intent of your actions.  This makes it far harder for them to collaborate with and support the work you do.

In time, this puts your career on the downhill slide because you can’t be successful in an organisation without being able to work effectively with the people around you.

In contrast, when a person is authentic and stands behind their values, has a clear personal brand and behaves consistently it is far easier to connect with them and build a long lasting relationship.

This is because you know what you will get when you collaborate and engage with them.  There’s no surprises, and you know that person won’t let you down or say one thing and do another.

Challenge yourself

If you want to be influential at work, you need to know your values and what you stand for.  Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I stand for and what my underlying values are?
  • Do I know what drives my behaviour?
  • Are my words and actions aligned?
  • Am I consistent in how I operate?

Answering these questions will provide insight into your leadership style.  But that’s just the beginning.  It will help if you go one step further and ensure that you are:

  • Open to feedback from those around you – and at different hierarchical levels. Get direct feedback from people and be willing to reflect, and where required, act on that feedback
  • Prepared to self-reflect – so that you are able to take the time to see how you are feeling, thinking and ultimately reacting to what is going on around you
  • Open to trying new things – as the circumstances may require you to step forward in a different way


Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and founder of Change Meridian.  Michelle works with global leaders and teams to help them accelerate progress in complex environments. She is the Author of ‘Step Up: How to Build Your Influence at Work’. 

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