You have probably heard more than enough advice on how to be a good leader. Whether hearing the wise words of current leaders, reading biographies and textbooks, or absorbing the wisdom of the internet, there are many ideas out there that tell you who you need to become to be a good leader. But will imitating a leadership style that is thought to be effective by some and criticized by others really help you to unlock your own potential as a future global leader? We think it makes much more sense to take you as who you are. Read on to embark on the life long journey to uncover what kind of a leader you really want to be.
Imitating great leaders of our time is not a good idea. For instance, although Steve Jobs was a great leader, you should not try to copy his leadership style. Why? Let’s take a closer look. Steve Jobs set out in his career with a very specific target: to make the best computer in the world. This goal, he communicated to those he worked with, both very frequently and superbly convincingly, creating a pull for others to follow his vision. Although it has frequently been shown that charismatic leaders are often good leaders, meaning that their influence is effective to achieve high outputs from their subordinates, imitating Steve Jobs is still not a good idea. Steve Jobs was shaped to become a visionary genius over the course of his life. Aiming to imitate his style would inevitably fail, both because our ability to fake a certain style consistently and thoroughly is limited, and because our own, personal life stories are necessarily different from the story that shaped Steve Jobs.
Beyond arguing that any copy of Steve Jobs we try to create would be imperfect, and thus probably less effective than the original, there is another reason why imitating someone else’s leadership style won’t work well for you. It simply “is not you”. Although you can try to fake it until you make it, working with your authentic style of leading will be much easier, and much more effective, than imitating someone else. If you know who you are and what your personal style of leadership is, you can begin to seek out opportunities to apply your leadership that actually fit you as a leader. Seeking out the types of companies, co-workers and situations that suit your profile will make it more likely for you to be good at what you do there, giving you an edge in leadership effectiveness.
Before you can begin to look for opportunities requiring a leadership style that fits yours, you still need to begin figuring out what your leadership style actually is. In other words, you need to embark on the life-long journey of figuring out yourself as a person, and as a leader. Which values guide your actions, what kind of a personality do you have, when can you really be yourself? These questions take a lifetime of tests and struggle to answer, and maybe we can’t even find an exhaustive answer until we cease to exist. However, if you do start walking the path of finding out who you are, you are beginning to develop what the Standford Graduate School’s Advisory Board has termed the number one characteristic of successful leaders: self-awareness.
Bottom line: Copycats can go home. Authenticity is key.
Want to take charge of shaping you own leadership style now? Take our interactive online workshop that helps you figure out who you are as a leader. Watch to hear the input of other young leaders on their way to becoming authentic, and find your own answers to several questions critical to developing an authentic leadership style - and more importantly, let us know what you think, through one of the many channels available.
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