The Amputation of Your Leadership Identity

The Amputation of Your Leadership Identity

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The pain of being let go from a job cuts deep. Especially when it is not related to a moral failure or job performance but instead connected to differences in beliefs or not a good cultural fit with the team or larger organization.

I know in my own story how the little t trauma of losing a job peels back layers of confusion. As a coach, I have listened to numerous stories of leaders who have endured similar situations. You may have your own story of being fired from a job, or layoffs due to the company’s financial status, or you may be mentally preparing for an unknown season ahead of the venture capital project wondering if it will work out.

Anytime we experience a loss of job or transition into another role we experience a reformation of our identity. At our core, I know that the deepest desire is to say that I am not what I do, but instead have a deeper identity rooted in being a child of God. However, if we are honest for a moment we know how difficult it is to have a solid identity in the same way God sees us.

Our identity is shaped by the roles we play at work, our friends, the organizations we belong to, the hobbies we enjoy, the marriages we create, and the children we raise. To describe ourselves without the pleasures, relationships, tasks, and responsibilities becomes seemingly impossible.

For example, one of the primary questions people are asking me this season since I have transitioned into full-time coaching is, “How long have you been coaching?” At its core, it is a question about identity. I could say I have been coaching all of my life from mentoring elementary kids when I was a high school student, to teaching golf when I graduated college, coaching basketball as my first primary job, serving as a marriage therapist, or guiding people spiritually as a pastor for two decades.

However, when someone asks the question, they ask how long you have been serving as a professional executive coach they want a specific timeline. Coaching is not what I do it is who I am. It is how God wired me, but today I have a title that says “coach.” Coaching is helping people get from one desired destination to their next destination.

How do you restore your leadership identity when you have experienced a job loss?

Below are three ways to restore your leadership identity:

First, take your heart and desire to the Father and allow him to lead you. We see this In the story of the religious leader Nicodemus going to Jesus at night. Nicodemus knows that if he decides to believe in Jesus, it will change and shift his life’s trajectory, not simply from a spiritual standpoint, but from a professional identity of being a member of the religious council.

Second, life is a series of griefs. Many times these are ungrieved losses, other times they happen in an instant. Create time to give meaning to the amputation of your identity. If you know anyone who has lost a finger due to a wood-working accident you know that a loss of a finger or limb changes your identity. When you give meaning to your job loss you examine the story to ensure that you are not growing in bitterness, resentment, anger, rage, or unforgiveness. Examine it from a posture of the gift that it was in a season of life, yet that season has ended.

I encourage you to listen to the conversation with John Eldredge this week on the podcast from minute 40:00 to 49:00 about paying attention to your grief and how every soul is carrying grief. (Listen to the Whole Hearted Leader on Spotify or Apple)

Finally, God has created us to work and get enjoyment from our vocation. We see this in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve. They were designed with an identity to work the ground and to take pleasure in creation. As we see ourselves in light of working in the Garden of Eden we can more accurately understand our role in creation and vocation as it relates to a loving Father.

The path forward in overcoming the amputation of our leadership identity is setting ourselves up for future disappointment and false expectations. This is true with wise leaders who have battled the storms of life, who overcome with resilience and champion hope in others. We were not designed to get our long-term identity in the things of this world. The desire as whole-hearted leaders is to hold onto things loosely, enjoy the gifts, yet give honor to the Giver as his beloved children.