You were probably asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” a thousand times as a kid. Young people are often advised to make a career decision early on and then pursue that idea, and after years of hearing the same advice, you’ve probably imagined your future professional life—what kind of job you will have, what kind of leader you will be—and now you’re working backwards to get that coveted life you’ve been dreaming of for so long. But that thought process can be a professional trap, limiting your possibilities.
This post originally appeared on Fast Company.
Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, here’s another piece of advice: forget what you think you know about what sort of work you should be doing and who you are professionally. This kind of thinking will trap you, says Herminia Ibarra, an expert in leadership and professor at international business school INSEAD.
“You don’t really know what you need to do to lead if you haven’t done it,” she tells us. “I think people get too caught up and fixated on what’s their ideal self and what they want to work toward when they should just say, ‘Here are a couple of situations where I would like to be more effective, how can I start there and work around the edges of that?”
According to Ibarra, author of the book Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, as you take on more responsibilities at work, you are encouraged to be authentic and true, but this can be tricky if your future self is yet to be formed. Below, she shares the advice she gives managers and executives on allowing your leadership style to evolve and discovering your future authentic self.