From one moment to the next, we are constantly changing and evolving how we are existing in the world. What we think about, how we feel, and the things we say and do: all of these aspects of us are constantly in flux. Our persona – what others see in us – is a reflection of what’s taking place in our inner world.
Please note that this post contains my interpretation of the copyrighted work of Bruce D Schneider and the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).
How often do you consciously think about how you are “showing up” in the world? How much of your awareness of the world is directed at yourself?
Why is this even important in the first place?
Emotional intelligence is a term that is widely thrown around in business and leadership circles. It has been described as a combination of self-awareness, with the ability to regulate our emotions as well as the emotinos of those around us. A person with great emotional intelligence is likely to have much more success in maximizing their work and personal relationships, as well as in resolving conflicts between two or more parties.
The Harvard Business Review even went as far as to say that emotional intelligence is twice as important as IQ and technical skills “for jobs at all levels.”
But how do we develop our emotional intelligence in the first place? It begins with discovering the ways in which we can present ourselves to the world.
This post is based on the 7 Levels of Energy Leadership, a psychological model developed by Bruce D Schneider. In his model, each energy level can be represented as a persona, or a role that can be played out at each of the seven levels. We’re going to take a dive into the personas to see what each one offers us. As you’ll read in a moment, the choices we make in how we show up will determine how the world treats us in return.
Persona #1: The Victim
We can all intuitively relate to this persona. Each and every day, a moment where we feel like a victim storms into our lives. For some of us, it’s over in the blink of an eye, and for others, it seems to throw our whole day or week off the rails.
When we show up as Victims, life happens TO us. We are at the effect of whatever events occur, seemingly unable to control our reality. We’re thrown around by whatever comes our way, convinced that we’re stuck in this position, which leads us to become inert.
Victims can’t be high-performers. They truly don’t believe that they can become anything more than they are right now, and so all of their personal growth comes to a screeching halt. Their careers stagnate, their relationships become bland or deteriorate, and their lives might feel, well, pretty sh*tty. 🙁
Occasionally, it is totally appropriate to feel like a victim. When a loved one passes, someone buys your company and you’re about to be downsized, or your dog just got hit by a car: these are perfect moments where it’s completely understandable to stop, cry and feel sad.
We all need to grieve tragic events and find closure. Once we reach that closure (and that is sometimes an exceptionally tall order!), we can then choose once again how we’d like live our lives.
Persona #2: The Fighter
The bell rings, and the punches are thrown. Minutes later, the referee holds up the hand of the winner, while the loser tries to figure out why their vision is so blurry.
Most of us are not boxers, but many of us are Fighters in some respect. We seek to be winners, sometimes at all cost. We’re not satisfied until we are “right,” and our “opponent” is “wrong.” Sometimes that opponent is actually a valued friend, colleague, or even someone we love. We argue and fight with them anyway, because the only way we’ll feel good about ourselves afterward is if we are the one having our hand raised after the final bell.
Question: we often encounter Fighters at school or at our place of work. What’s your approach to “getting along” with them? Let us know in the comments section below! 🙂
Fighters have their just place in our world, and being a fighter ourselves has a place in our lives. If it wasn’t for fighters, we’d have no civil rights movements, no war protests, and no one to fight climate change. Humankind might have never set foot on the moon had it not been for the intense space race between the USA and the USSR during the Cold War.
When we choose to show up as fighters, we can make a lot of positive things happen in our individual worlds. As Fighters, it is often others who sadly pay the price for our victories. The question then becomes, how can we “win” without others losing in return? Is there a better way?
Persona #3: The Rationalizer
Ashley and Kate are catching up at a local coffee shop. Ashley asks Kate, “how’s school going for you these days?”
Kate’s response: “it’s OK. It’s a little boring, but not the end of the world.”
Kate is rationalizing her experience as a student. While she isn’t showing up as a Victim or a Fighter, she’s instead accepting that “it is what it is.”
“School is supposed to be boring,” she tells herself, and so that’s exactly how she perceives and lives the experience. She’s getting through her academics, but doesn’t really feel a passion for it.
When we rationalize, we are much more aware of our inner and outer world than we are as Victims or Fighters. However, we’re often selling ourselves short – we’re not living a life of joy, excitement and happiness. We aren’t necessarily upset with ourselves, but we’re not deeply content either. Life is like a car ride in which we can tell the driver where to go, but we may or may not end up at our desired destination because we’re not the one actually driving the car.
Persona #4: The Caregiver
The caregiver persona can be seen all over the world and in our daily lives. The people who show up in front of us as caregivers tend to include our parents, partners, best friends, mentors, doctors, teachers, nurses, servers, and sometimes even our superiors!
When we show up as caregivers, we are putting others before ourselves. We “win” when others win.
Caregivers tend to take very few things personally. Since they are primarily so focused on others, their own feelings come second.
The main challenge for the caregiver persona tends to be centered around self-preservation. At times, a caregiver can become so focused on caring for others that they neglect to care for themselves. When this happens, an individual’s persona can shift toward that of a Victim’s (or sometimes even a Fighter’s!).
Should you consciously choose to show up as a caregiver, it’s often important to take steps to revitalize yourself on a regular basis. (This is what Stephen Covey referred to as “Sharpening the Saw.”) Otherwise, you may not be sticking around as an effective Caregiver for very long!
Persona #5: The Opportunist
For some reason, the world has widely adopted a really negative, kind of shady outlook on this word “opportunist.” That’s NOT the image that’s we’re trying to portray here!
In this context, and opportunist sees opportunity where others may see a challenge or a problem.
They see differences of opinion as new and potentially beneficial points of view, which can allow them to generate alternative solutions to otherwise stale issues.
This is a major shift in mindset for most people who are used to showing up as Victims, Fighters or even Rationalizers. It’s about seeing the positive or the silver lining in every situation. It’s a persona that is dominated by the individual seeking “win-win” results – results that benefit them as well as the people they’re working with.
Ensuring that there is some degree of self-directed benefit is what keeps an Opportunist from draining themselves in the way that a Caregiver might. It’s a very effective way to show up in the world as a result.
Persona #6: The Visionary
Visionaries capitalize on the connections between themselves and others to create scenarios in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (This relates closely to Stephen Covey’s famous sixth habit of highly effective people, called “Synergize.”)
For example, in the case of a salary negotiation, if an ideal result for both parties can’t be formed, the negotiation is halted to prevent a damaging win-loss outcome from occurring. This is in stark contrast to what can happen when both parties enter into talks through the Fighter’s persona. Negotiating Fighters might find a compromise (at best), but their is often resentment that’s generated in the process that is absent when both sides are engaged as Visionaries.
Visionaries can be difficult to approach for people with the Victim or Fighter’s persona because they are energetically very distant from one another. Despite this, Visionaries tend to see the positive in even the most negative of people, giving them the ability to effectively lead those who live with either of these two mindsets. This is a key quality for a manager or boss to build as a result.
Persona #7: The Creator
This persona is the polar opposite of the Victim’s persona. To draw from Shannon Graham, if life happens to us as Victims, then as Creators we happen to life.
In Think and Grow Rich, Napolean Hill wrote about how all things created by humankind start out as thoughts. As creators, we not only dream up new ideas which can solve our problems, we discover the road maps that let us bring ideas into the real world.
Creators are able to release their judgment of virtually everything, seeing people and things in an incredibly objective way. The binary concepts of good and bad, right and wrong, and winning and losing disappear: they are simply subjective labels created by the other personas.
The Creator persona is also defined by the passion that is experienced as an individual goes about their most most meaningful and satisfying tasks. Work doesn’t feel like work to the Creator. “Work,” as the other personas might label it, is fun for the Creator.
How powerful can this emotion be? The late Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, explained that his 100-hour workweeks were feasible for him because of the fun, passion and joy that he experienced as he went about running one of America’s most successful transportation companies for decades.
Question: what activities bring out your inner Creator?
Make your choice
Everyday we experience each one of the personas just discussed. Our awareness of these experiences, however, is often lacking.
When we begin to consciously focus on what our options are and how we’d like to be, or emotional intelligence grows immensely, along with our capacity to lead ourselves and others.
As my friend Nate Saunders talked about in our interview together, when we grow ourselves, we maximize our chances to help others achieve their dreams. When we overfill our own energetic cup, we begin to be able to fill the cups of others without draining our own. When we choose our persona, we are deciding how full our cup becomes. Choose wisely!
Question: what do you think your dominant persona is?
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