Continuing with the theme of bringing your most confident and best self to work, in this post I’ll explore the concept of alter egos, and how by adopting one or more than one, it can provide an avenue for being different version of ourselves. I first learned about alter egos-in this context- from an interview with Todd Herman on a finance podcast I subscribe to.
This is the second post of a three-part series. Check out the first post about power poses. In the final post, I’ll share how power poses and an alter ego can work together, particularly when they’re prompted by a song cue. For me that song is “Thunder,” by Imagine Dragons, hence the title for this series of posts.
Back to alter egos. As Herman explains, finding your alter ego can give the boost of confidence needed to take on difficult projects, conversations, or simply present yourself in the most self-assured way possible. The first step for me after listening to the podcast was figuring out what my alter ego would be. There were examples of bears, movie stars, cartoons, but none really spoke to me. Herman suggests thinking about what a particular alter ego would enable you to do that you don’t feel confident enough to do as your everyday self. For me, having a presence is important. My administrator title affords me more power than someone without that title. However, when I walk in a room, my title- and more importantly my skills as a leader and manager- aren’t always known or believed in. It makes sense that when working with a new group of people or even an established group that you have to earn others’ trust. However, it can be challenging to begin to build up those relationships if I’m not feeling confident.
I started thinking about what animal or movie star is confident (I had to toss out cartoon characters because I’m not conversant enough in them for one to resonate with me!). I thought about Julie Roberts and her confident smile, or Ashley Judd, whose character is always a bit of a bad-ass. But calling up an image of them didn’t stick for me. Then I thought about my favorite animals: monkeys and penguins. Neither seemed to fit here. Then I thought about the movie the Lion King which had recently been re-released. I decided Simba looking over his kingdom from Pride Rock was a mental image that would work for me. I certainly don’t view my division as my kingdom. However, being able to picture that scene reminds me of key leadership skills:
- Seeing the big picture- internal and external challenges and opportunities.
- Communicating a vision.
- Being part of a team.
- Advocating for the needs of others.
- Helping to prioritize work and remove barriers to achieve common goals.
With a lion in mind, I thought about other symbols I could draw on. Ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve loved thunder storms. I still do. I love seeing a flash of lightening and then counting the seconds until I hear the thunder. Thunder for me symbolizes strength, and is one tool in my leadership toolbox. Bringing the thunder-as I think of it- means standing up for something that is a core value for me or my organization. It is the hill I want to die on. However, I only bring the thunder when I think it’s absolutely necessary. To be able to advocate effectively, coach others, and make hard decisions, I have to bring my most confident and best self to that work. However, if I always brought the thunder, I could be perceived as unpredictable, angry, and un-collaborative. And so I conjure thunder and move into that alter ego only when necessary.
What or who might your alter ego be?