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Playing With the Roles of Leadership

In one day you may see me in multiple outfits including a blouse and dress pants, a tank top and shorts, a skirt and jacket, a robe and stole, or a vintage dress. While wearing each of these outfits I hold a different title: mental health counselor, colleague, mother, wife, leader, church member, clergy, home-owner, swing dancer.

Each one of the titles comes with a detailed job description, most of it unwritten. The titles bring lots of expectations (my own and others), as well as personal strengths that enhance my effectiveness, and personal weaknesses that challenge me in each position.

In our complex society all of us hold a variety of titles, and expectations, but this can be particularly complicated for leaders. Within the one main title, whether it is clergyperson, manager, chairperson, director or president, there are numerous roles and subtitles. A clergyperson may be identified as preacher, pastor, teacher, spiritual director, administrator, advocate, colleague, fundraiser and many more.

Though we hold all the roles and titles simultaneously, we tend to think of ourselves primarily from one identity at a time, maybe switching our perspective to pick up a phone call from family or to step out of a meeting to comfort a grieving family.

Sometimes there are distinct outfits and ways of expressing oneself that go with each role. Often the shifting and balancing of roles involves changes in internal focus and approach. Though internal shifts can be more subtle, they affect how others see and respond to us in similar ways to changing the clothes we wear.

Visualization Exercise

This visualization exercise can help you think through the district characteristic of each of your roles, and make the transitions seamless, or at least more fun.


“I’m just trying to look like I’m doing something” by Eugene Wong

1)      List each of the roles you hold in one particular day.

2)      Write down a brief list of expectations or a job description for each role.

3)      Reflect on the qualities and characteristics you try to bring to each role. What image do you want to portray in each role? What comes naturally for you and what is more of a challenge?

4)      Imagine that you were to change your outfit or maybe even become a different character in each of these roles. How would you dress and what persona would you take on for each one?

5)      Finally, make a game out of imagining yourself shifting back and forth between these internal characters as you go through your day. Notice what happens, or journal about some of the questions below.

Do the characters come on and off the stage of your day in well-choreographed rhythms?

Does your internal charismatic speaker have trouble sitting back when the quiet, meditative thinker steps forward? Does the doting, nurturer keep walking back into the room, when you are attempting to channel the

no-nonsense disciplinarian?

Are there so many sudden scene changes that the story of your leadership becomes hard to follow? Or is the balance clear and comfortable?

Have fun creating and developing the internal characters that populate the stage of your life. Think about how you might like to direct your story and adjust the characters and choreography in the coming week.

This exercise might help lead to valuable changes in your life, or at least it could bring a smile to your face.

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