Leadership Style: Fake it till you make it

Fake it till you make itAbout a year ago, I wrote this post about how to articulate my/your leadership style. Thanks to Google, this has become my all time most viewed post with over 1,000 views.

Today I’m writing about how my leadership style has evolved over the years. I think. Either that or it’s a coming of age post. Either way, I thought there might be some universal appeal in my journey from a young/dumb supervisor to a much less young and slightly less dumb business leader.

When I was starting out someone told me to,”Fake it till you make it.” So I did. I pretended to be a boss. I faked being confident by using high-school football pre-game tactics to psych myself up before work. I made decisions by throwing an imaginary dart at an imaginary decision dartboard in my head. And I listened to those who I thought had made it, and, like an actor memorizing his lines, I just said the things they said until I sounded like a boss.

It worked – I looked and quacked like a duck.

Over Time I learned a thing or two from my countless mistakes, and I like to think I’ve now “made it”. Yes, I have officially arrived at the pantheon of great business leaders. And of course, in ten years, I look back on the leader I am today and think what a fool I was for writing such self-aggrandizing posts like this one.

But I don’t think I’m the only one who progresses through these leadership stages, so here’s a roadmap you can follow with some behaviorally-specific ways to fake it (for new managers) till you make it (for the more experienced).

Fake it…

Till you make it…

Make a quick decision: Someone once told me a bad decision is better than no decision. New managers learn what not to do from making bad decisions, while learning to trust their instincts/gut from the good ones. Make the right decision: I’ve learned to involve peers, bosses, and subordinates in decision making to improve precision, accuracy, and, most-importantly, buy-in.
Use logic: New managers should stick to the black and white, the cut and dry, the facts and figures. With experience and more responsibility, leaders need to be more comfortable living in the grey areas. Use emotion: Trying to win an emotional argument with logic is like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Leadership is an affair of the heart.
Be confident: A certain amount of self-assuredness is necessary for a new leader. A cornerstone of faking it till you make it, when you’re new, at least pretend you’re confident. Be humble: (Fake) confidence is a young man’s game.
Do what you say you will do: Always keep your promises. It’s the only way for a new manager to build management credibility. Let your actions do the talking: Talk is cheap. Speak softly and carry a big stick.
Be a person of action: Don’t wait for your boss to tell you what to do, and don’t sit on the sidelines hoping for change to happen. Take action. Shake things up. Be a servant: Focus your actions on helping the people around achieve their personal goals, which you will bend into alignment with company goals.
Be an actor: Pay attention to what the good managers at work say and how they say it. Memorize their lines, and just say the same stuff in the same way. Be a symbol: Like Pope Francis washing the feet of detainees or living in the guesthouse at the Vatican, let your actions be a symbol of your character, values, and your message.
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