Who are YOU?!?

In deference to the legendary rock band with similar lyrics, the question isn’t, WHO are You? It’s more about that dreaded first impression remark from someone who doesn’t know you: Who are YOU?!?

Personal and professional journeys are pre-occupied with trying to instill a sense of who we are, both within ourselves and others. We all want the same thing: To be recognized, known and/or recalled for what we want others to know us by.

But there’s a catch. We never fully get to answer Who are You? The audience does.

Comedian/actor Albert Brooks, not to be confused with Mel Brooks, says that even after 25+ years of performing comedy, he doesn’t know what makes people laugh other than the unexpected. Brooks’ newest work, “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World,” cuts through the seriousness of global politics with biting humor to connect with everyday hearts and minds in India.

Howard Stern, the new king of satellite radio, personifies the saying, “true geniuses are misunderstood.” After his latest deal with Sirius, it may need to read ‘performing geniuses are misunderstood all the way to the bank.’ Say what you want about Stern, FCC standards and the chimp- like state of radio. Fact remains that he has created one of the largest, most loyal followings ever achieved by a single individual in any field.

Even the Godfather movie series has its own special stamp called The Code of Silence. Good or evil, pale or bloody, you knew where the family stood at all times. There wasn’t anything morally upright about what transpired, yet clarity was always achieved.

Corporate and business leaders cling to the notion that influence is determined strictly by pulling their own chosen control levers. But that’s simply not true, and it may never have been. Throw in a crisis and this axiom moves even further away from reality.

Similar to performing artists, business leaders are only as good as their audience. If no one believes what you’re saying, nothing of lasting value will be created. It’s true in Hollywood, and it’s true in business despite heavy denial to the contrary.

Know your audience on multiple levels: professionally, personally and otherwise. Identify their needs and offer valid, valuable insights. Dare to break through the conventional norms. Speak and act clearly and candidly.

When it’s all said and done, being at one with yourself and audience may be the only leadership attribute worth trying to fulfill.