The Leadership Badge

The dictionary defines a badge as “a small distinctive piece of fabric, metal, or plastic worn on clothing to show rank or membership or a characteristic; or an identifying mark of a particular brand, quality, or type of person”. Police men and women regard their badges as a symbol of honor, dignity, integrity, truth and justice. These are the ideals they strive for every day. A badge gives and helps them to define their identity and what they stand for. They wear it with pride. It reminds them of their duty to serve and protect communities, the government and their colleagues. It therefore highlights the importance of accountability.

Leadership Identity

In the workplace, people wear different badges. One of the important badges is the one worn by leaders. It may not be as visible as the one worn by Police men and women, but they wear it daily. A leadership badge should be worn with pride. It is representative of their leadership identity. Leadership identity is a set of characteristics that belong uniquely to a leader. It constitutes the leader’s personality. It is closely linked with their enacted values, and is the heart of a leader as a person. In order to determine their leadership identity, leaders need to be self-aware.


Many scholars and writers agree that self-awareness is one of the most important virtues that contribute to a leader’s success. It is the basis of Emotional Intelligence. Self awareness is more than just knowing their strengths, weaknesses, values, goals and aspirations. It includes how all these impact on those they are leading. In order to increase their self awareness, leaders are encouraged to ask themselves and answer questions such as:

  • Who am I?
  • What do I really want?
  • What do I want to be?
  • What are my values?
  • What is my unique value proposition?
  • What is the impact I have on others?
  • What is the legacy I want to leave in the organisation?


Self-awareness helps leaders to direct their behaviour. It also helps them to be centered. Centeredness implies that the leader is emotionally stable and secure. They are not easily swayed by the challenges they meet in the workplace. Centered leaders are resilient and grow from their challenges. Resiliency is defined as the ability to bounce or leap back after having encountered stressors and adversity. Resilient leaders have developed good resilient assets such as building and maintaining good relationships; emotional intelligence; and realistic optimism as well as good or healthy coping mechanisms. They never give up. They stay true to their purpose. They are able to remain resilient because of their ability to reflect or introspect.

The importance of Introspection

When defining resilience, the importance of introspection is stressed. Introspection enables a leader to move from the dance onto the balcony. The balcony is a place where a leader takes an objective stance, and watches themself dance or react to situations happening around them. From this point, a leader notices and acknowledges their actions, reactions and responses. It helps them to accept their faults, and empowers them to develop ways to improve their behavior. Hence they grow in the process. Leaders who fail to reflect do not learn and grow from their experiences. They grow weak from each encounter and end up burnt out, or giving away their leadership badge.

Knocking On Heaven’s Door

Leaders who give up their leadership badge remind me of the song “Knocking on Heaven’s door”. The song describes the collapse of a deputy sheriff who is dying from a bullet wound. He tells his wife “Mama, take this badge off of me; I can’t use it anymore. It’s getting’ dark, too dark to see, I feel I’m knocking’ on heaven’s door”.

Leaders, who do not take time to reflect, fail to develop their resilience assets. They end up giving up, and literally singing this song without being aware of what they are doing. They no longer find pride in wearing their leadership badge/ identity. Being a leader becomes a chore instead of helping them to live their purpose. They no longer find fulfillment in what they do. They sometimes behave in ways that make them lose respect and integrity. They change their identity to fit into the environment. They let the environment define them. In some cases they change without noticing that they have changed. In case of women leaders, they lose their femininity and become “butch”. They lose empathy, which is one of the strongest virtues possessed by women leaders. Because leaders have given away their leadership badge, they are no longer seen as role models. They make their followers to be afraid of becoming leaders. They fail to develop other leaders. Such leaders leave a negative legacy.

Maintaining your Leadership Badge

A leadership badge is a symbol of honor and integrity. It represents a leader’s identity. It reminds leaders that their role is to serve their organization, employees and the community. Leaders are encouraged to find their centre and develop resilience assets to deal with the ever-changing and challenging environment. This will help them to keep their leadership badge, and enabling them to leave a legacy.

Tshamani Mathebula

Tshamani Mathebula

I am an experienced process facilitator whose purpose in life is to develop people so that they can be the best they can be in their personal and professional lives. I have 15 years experience in human resource development, organisational development, change management, culture transformation, employee engagement, graduate development, leadership development and coaching. I am passionate about leadership development and transformation, and my area of study is focused on transformational leadership and high performance culture.

The Leadership Badge
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One thought on “The Leadership Badge

  • November 25, 2015 at 8:53 am

    A heart always reflects what is full of and with you I see, love, goodness, care and thoughtfulness. Your piece reflect all these qualities. Blessed is the ear that listens and heeds to great advice such as yours.

    “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” – Proverbs 3:13-14.

    Thank you Hani ?. Wa vava straight!!!


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