I find it easier to describe the value that I bring to the table for my organisation through my work. I get stumped when people ask - What is your differentiator as a leader? Speaking about 'me' makes me uncomfortable. I seem to get partial amnesia of my strengths and don't find any words to describe who I am. I want to be able to speak about myself with confidence & conviction in a way that help me be considered for strategic roles. ~ Country Head, Recycling industry
Some of us have been conditioned to forget ourselves and place the locus of our identity on what we do.
So it becomes fairly easy to describe what we do rather than describing ourselves.
For higher leadership roles, what we do is a performance metric, while who we are is a potential metric.
While what we do may get us reasonable performance appraisals, who we are will give us a good chance of being considered for higher roles. Performance is a necessary but insufficient condition for growth. So one needs to pay attention to potential and ways to enhance it.
Where does one start?
The book Ikigai is a great read on the subject. While it enters around the reason to be, it can also help you differentiate yourself.
Take an inventory of all your strengths:
Most often we ignore our strengths that are not leveraged at work. As a child you may have had a knack of mobilising people. You join work as an individual contributor and when asked about your strengths, you conveniently forget that you were good with people.
So take your time and take an inventory of all that you are good at.
Ask your friends, family, colleagues, bosses, mentors for their perspective to minimise the chances of missing hidden strengths. Do not discount any strengths at this point of time as being too small or trivial.
2. Take an inventory of your passion & hobbies
Your passion are interests where you are willing to spend time and effort on.
Your hobby is the kind of activity you enjoy to do without the pressure of too much commitment.
Make a list of both.
This will help you capture who you are in a more holistic way.
3. What do you care about?
You may be a person who cares deeply about animals, climate change, economic independence etc.
When you lend your voice for any of the causes you care about, it differentiates you uniquely.
It also weaves together your passion & strength to address issues important for the collective.
Humour & lightness are great qualities to have in a leader.
Always add humour when you describe yourself so that it gives a humble take on your achievements without coming across as a person with high ego.
I remember someone starting their introduction as - My childhood dream was to be Iron man :-) The bad news is I am not yet, and the good news is I am alive :-)
5. Create an elevator pitch
Now that your data is ready - tie it up all together succinctly.
Apart from your name and your role, talk about - who you serve/create for, your speciality and unique approach along with what brought your so far. Add a dash of humour and you are all set.
Differentiating oneself may be a conscious activity in the beginning and the more you action it, it will be your second nature. Pay attention to it & it will help you drive energy on to it.
How do you differentiate yourself?