Trying to become a better leader? Don’t be someone else. You need to be YOU. If you are trying to be like someone else, forget it. That job is taken. The world needs YOU, not the other guy.
I see too many young professionals trying to be like someone else. They identify a role model and take off copying that person’s style, trappings, mannerisms, and even vocabulary. It comes across phony. To be an effective leader, you must develop your own unique style and approach.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with trying to learn great things from people who have “been there, done that.” That is mentoring and coaching. Yes, let someone show you the ropes, but YOU need to decide how that new knowledge will fit into who and what you are.
My Crazy Little Story
If you follow my writings at all, you know I am the only child of a hard working single Mom. Mom couldn’t provide a lot in a material sense, but she brought me the moon in terms of key and important influences in my life. When I was still at home, she arranged a huge cadre of male role models from which I could learn. I didn’t turn out like any one particular mentor of mine. No, better yet, I became a patchwork quilt of qualities and attributes I gleaned from various others who were offering support and encouragement.
Am I perfect? Absolutely not, but I guarantee I have been able to do more than a lot of my peers because I had this amazing exposure to men who had a heart for mentoring and helping a young boy grow up. Many of my friends grew up in the shadow of their Dad. Sometimes that worked out well, other times not so much. They had to wait years to realize there were other choices for values and behaviors from which they could have chosen. I had the good fortune of know that before I left for college.
You Can Make a Change Now
It’s never too late to grow. As a leader you should already have a habit of seeking growth and experiencing growth. If you have been slow to do that, there is no better time than now.
- Start with feedback from your stakeholders; the people who have the most vested interest in having you grow. Ask your company to perform a 360 assessment for you. Use that feedback as a baseline. If you’re an solopreneur, ask your closest colleagues and clients to rate you. Yes, that might be scary, but it is a good exercise. Plus it shows them you are serious about becoming a better YOU.
- Be ready to leverage your strengths (as described in the first step). Make a list of the shortcomings; the areas where you can improve the most.
- Surround yourself with quality advisers who can come alongside to share with you their experiences and offer alternative solutions. Build a small, trusted team of experienced professionals who are willing to share their wisdom with you. Join a mastermind group.
- Grab some good books on Leadership. I suggest a few here.
- Take some courses. There are great ones available online or through some of the business schools. You don’t have to sign up for a full degree program.
Make a Plan
Develop your own leadership development plan. Use the information you gather from my checklist here and work out a plan for growth. Take small steps each and every day to build your personal archive of knowledge, experience and information on leadership. When you get stumped (and you will), seek counsel. Get advice from trusted coaches or mentors.
Stop This One Thing
Stop trying to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Or whoever your X-person is. You fill in the blank with the name of that persona you have been trying to become. Yes, you can adopt some of their principles, skills, and attributes, but own it. Make them yours. You need to be you. All the other jobs are taken.
You will never be as successful as you could be by trying to copy someone else. All you will have done is flatter them and pump them up. Sadly, very famous authorities usually never know about your effort to copy them. Just stop it.
[reminder]Let me know about ways you have tried to copy someone else. What were the results?[/reminder]