Identities and roles - for people and business

This morning my Vistage chair (the fabulous Mike Donahue) led a discussion on identities versus roles. Since identity is one of my favorite topics (brand is, after all, a euphemism for identity) I was especially interested in the conversation. A synopsis:

Identity: It's who we are. Our essence. Our core. Our self concept.

Role: It's what we do. Our part. Our function in a business, family, community.

Difficulties arise when our roles are not congruent with our identity. For instance, if you see yourself as a warm-hearted, relationship-oriented person, but your job requires you to stay relatively isolated in an office making strictly logical, calculated decisions, the stress could wear on you to the point that it leads to depression. You have the choice to work to make your job more congruent with your identity or to find another job that is more aligned with who you are.

In my own case, when I turned my firm over to new owners after 13 years at the lead, I hadn't factored into my life that I had absorbed "President" into my identity. And so I was taken by surprise when I found myself grieving the loss of that part of myself. I had to come to grips with the concept that my role had changed to employee and seek different avenues for offering leadership.

The concept of identity and role is also central to my brand work with businesses. I believe that brand begins with "who" a business is (identity) and the operations, marketing, and production (roles) flows from the brand essence. These two parts in complete alignment - the identity and the roles - form a confident organization that is poised to deliver and build trust.