Why Your Title Does Not Define You As A Leader


It is Saturday morning and career coaching time. One of my favorite questions to ask a client is, “What’s next for you?” A multitude of responses include, “I have more potential to leverage,” “not sure—I am exploring,” “my career has been great, but I am not sure what is next—I feel a bit uncertain,” or “my career has progressed every three to five years, and it is time for me to be CEO (COO, SVP, or VP).”

Each response is valid and requires a different starting point in the career conversation. The response about title change is challenging because the client has a self-predetermined title orientation on a specific timeline. In this example, identity is organized on title versus offering value to people, serving as a catalyst for positive change, or compelling others to buy into a vision and take strategic action.

Organizational affiliation is a huge factor in shaping our sense of belonging, how we are part of something bigger than us, and how others might define us.

Take away the title and assume you have no organization. Who are you? How do you perceive yourself? How will others describe you? Do others describe you as your exhibited talent? How do others describe your talents and gifts? Do those descriptions align with your sense of self? Do others follow you because of the title only? Do they describe you regarding your impact on others?

When interviewing candidates for a CEO role, I ask the following: “In two to five words, what is your offer?” The answer to this question helps me understand how to support this person to actualize his or her definition of success. A long answer that goes on for two to three minutes tells me this person is seeking clarity of self and may very well still be a high performer.

A shorter answer to the “what is your offer” question indicates an evolved clarity of self; for example, a change catalyst, a people developer, sees possibilities, an aspiring humble leader, a transformative agent, a facilitator of vitality for all, curious and accountable, and a people connector are among the many self-descriptions I have heard.

What is your offer?

Deedee Myers