In the 21st century business world, the people that make a difference are not only those who improve the bottom line. The focus has long been on people that can increase sales, but that is beginning to change. My clients understand that as the world becomes more global and technology brings us closer together, what matters just as much is focusing on self-awareness and leadership. Efficiency is important, but success is no longer just about the process and the results. It’s also about the people involved. People who have the self-awareness of an intentional, strong identity can lead themselves to overcome obstacles in their own lives so that they can lead others in their organization toward success.

Effective leaders are relationship-focused. They inspire a sense of common purpose within the workplace by establishing relationships with and among their team rooted in trust, respect and mutual appreciation. To cultivate these relationships, a true leader must first develop a clear and authentic self-awareness. For many of us this is something we don’t even know that we don’t have. We let ourselves be put into a box, defined in large part by labels assigned to us by the people around us.

Believing that those labels are who we should be, we become stuck, not thinking about the possibilities for success that are out there, content to repeat each day like the last and seldom reaching our full potential or setting higher goals for ourselves. Identity leadership is a valuable tool in turning this system around. I know, because I developed it through my own experience. I didn’t know it at the time, or even have a name for it until later, but I was changing the way I learned, gaining for the first time a real sense of who I am and what I want to do with the 24 hours I have in each day, and I was building a life management plan based on my own passions and talents.

It sounds simple but truly knowing what you value, what you want and the driving principles that make you who you are is easier said than done. When I lead seminars on identity leadership, it takes an entire series of exercises before most people are able to figure out what the real properties of identity are and to gain a sense of their own identity and start solidifying it anew. Once they do, they start building a basis to go beyond their current circumstances to grow and develop, and part of that development is having a plan for success. Identity leadership consists of a system, a strategy for getting out of the survival mode that normally only gets us through the day. It is one of the few forums in life that promotes focusing internally.

Effective leaders in the 21st century must operate with a strong sense of their own identity, because along with it comes purpose and integrity, willingness to take risks, the ability to understand the importance of change and to be ready for it. Leaders must be self-motivated to master the challenges of the leadership role and must possess an appreciation of learning and the wisdom to adapt new ways to learn. When I was able to achieve some of my goals, both as a professional and in my personal life, I looked back and found that I had approached them with a system, which I now call the Nine-Step Success Process. Today, I still use the plan that process has helped me to build. Over time, my plan has changed, I have set new goals and I have found new ways to learn and examine my path to success.

When I teach identity leadership to people in the business world, I talk about the importance of having a vision not just for their personal lives but for their professional lives, as well. Without one it can be difficult to remember to continually acquire new tools for personal and professional growth. Identity leadership also includes finding the steps to take toward achieving goals. Professionals need a clear plan of action to stay focused on who they are and what they want, and finding the right path is not always a simple task.

In business, leadership is everything. Effective leaders possess qualities or guidelines by which to operate, such as trust, determination and honesty. Building a clear sense of which guidelines to live by puts leaders on a path to success, in a way, by helping them lead themselves. The example they set gives them the integrity they need to be leaders in the business world. One of the most difficult things to do in business, as in life, is to take risks. To be successful, leaders often need to try new things or change their strategy to remain effective, and it is important to have strategies in place to ensure constant growth and movement toward goals. Strategies to manage change are equally as important, and developing them and keeping them in place requires effort and practice.

As I mentioned, leaders in business are relationship-focused. They have built supportive relationships based on trust with those around them. Identity leadership develops methods of building a network, either formal or informal, of people that can help ensure the success of each member and of the organization. Many successful leaders believe that nothing important that can be accomplished can be done alone, and without the right tools it can be difficult to build one’s network.

One of the most important parts of identity leadership is being able to determine which decisions will have the most impact or the desired result. Cultivating an awareness of the most effective decisions is an essential part of identity leadership. Another part is committing to your vision. Identity leadership includes strategies for devoting energy to achieving your goals, maintaining enthusiasm and reaching your potential as an effective leader.

The self-awareness training of identity leadership is often lacking in corporate leadership development. But without truly knowing who you are, how can you have the integrity to lead others in your organization. Professionals who build their identity and have a complete plan for success are in a minority of elite leaders in the world of business. They are the ones that can make it happen!