How to Embrace the Leader Within

Marli Watt: Professional Executive and Leadership coach

There are many factors that can facilitate growth in your own professional identity. Shifting your mindset from business owner or technical expert to that of a leader can clarify our priorities, change how we show up for others and focus on who we are as an individual.

What we need to be aware of is that identity is not fixed, it can change, and we can change it. We have the ability to shape and evolve our own identity with the right support and the right mindset to do that. Dr Marli Watt shares her invaluable industry knowledge, exploring how mindset, behaviours, skills and environment, impact how you view yourself as a leader.


Step 1. Self-awareness & understanding you

To understand how you perceive yourself professionally, ask yourself “Who am I right now?”. Your answer will generally start with “I am…”, and that statement is how you perceive your identity. E.g., I am a consultant.

Compile a list of the factors that reinforce this identity of “I am”. Include, actions and behaviours, your values and beliefs, your skills and capabilities and the environment. E.g. helping clients, spending a large amount of time on documents, generating earnings etc.


Step 2. Explore factors you can change to shift your identity.

Consider the leader you want to be. Do so by asking questions such as what things would be associated with reinforcing that identity? And what can I change to help shift to that identity?

Here are our four (4) top tips that can help you answer these questions.

  1. Mindset – including Beliefs

There is a difference between knowing something and believing something. You may know you own a business but feeling it is far more important. All the external factors are great reminders but what often holds you back is not believing in yourself.

If you’re telling yourself that it’s much easier being a lawyer, a builder, or a physiotherapist, or that it’s easier just to generate fees or income, these are all sneaky beliefs that take away your leadership identity.

Be aware of what you say to yourself. Some people can do this naturally but for others, it’s much harder. The best way to change is to get support and coaching to guide you through this process.

  1. Skills and capabilities

Think about what are the key skills and capabilities you need to be a leader. Will you need extra support and learning to gain these skills and capabilities? These can be practical leadership skills such as how to set a vision and strategic plan. There are also ‘soft’ skills such as how to lead a diverse team, how to have difficult conversations, and how to manage your personal energy.

Joining a business program can provide great learning modules and resources to expand knowledge of business leadership. Or you could find a mentor or coach to guide you.

  1. Behaviours

What activities or behaviours can you change to consistently show you are as accountable as a leader?

Perhaps it’s changing your communication style. If leading a team, don’t make assumptions that team members know things, take the time to share and communicate all relevant information. Make your vision of your company clear, showing them where they can make a difference and where to focus. Or it could be a change in the type of networking you do. Join different memberships that are focused on business education and not just specific to your area of expertise.

  1. Environment

What factors in your environment can you change to help you identify as a leader?

If an office environment, what layout or structures can support it? E.g., Shift around your desk, place your vision and values on the wall, set your calendar up with leadership meetings and strategic planning sessions that cannot be moved to fit in clients etc. Actually… hold those leadership meetings too!


It’s important to remember, that all of this can feel clunky and awkward at first, but it’s all part of the learning cycle. Just like when you first learned to drive. Eventually, making a change to the above factors will lead you to a place where you identify as “I am a leader” unconsciously. That’s the goal. You know it. You do it. You feel it.

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