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BE You: A Leader's Identity in Transition

BE You in Transition

This week I've been putting in time researching how agency and courage come to life in moments of change. I read the book Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change by William and Susan Bridges where they introduce the concept that the real challenge with change lies in the human transitions that happen around change events. They talk through what happens to identities and the difficulty some people may have facing the loss or change in long held identities as part of transition.

Here is what got me thinking: Late in the book they discuss the impact of a leaders role in transition as one that might put the leader themselves in transition. That the leader may have to take on new or unfamiliar leadership identities when they have to lead a team or an organization through the transition.

Confused yet? I was too. Particularly because we talk so much about our foundational principle for leaders: BE and DO you, or be authentic to who you are and bring that to life in the actions you take and decisions you make.

But this is where vulnerability comes in. Leaders who practice building trust through vulnerability may have an easier time with the loss of a leadership identity when leading a team through transitions. That vulnerability gives them the chance to be real with their team / organization.

"Being real" has a twofold effect here.

  1. It gives leaders the chance to process the transition, which is necessary to move beyond it. The leader not only has to lead a team through the transition, but also has to deal with their own transition. This processing helps.

  2. It actually builds trust with team members through the transition. Your team / org is going to be able to read you, particularly if you practice authenticity and show up as you on a daily basis. They'll know when you don't and that could foster mistrust or at the very minimum, confusion in times of transition.

Not to mention that organizational trust can take a massive hit when change and transition are managed poorly by the organization. Often direct leaders are the best vehicles for organizations to build trust during these periods.

The authors give many more notes on how to lead through transition, too much to recap here.

But here's my key takeaway from my thoughts in the moment this week.

Leaders, its ok if you don't have all the answers or if a change (transition) that you are being ask to lead your team through isn't totally clear to you yet. Use vulnerability as a tool to continue to build trust by being open and honest with your team. That action alone can help keep employees in the game longer, navigating the transition with you and helping innovate for the next beginning.


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