Leadership – can you fake it till you make it?

When we ask our clients what they consider to be one of the most important qualities of a leader, they are very likely to use words such as authenticity, honesty, integrity, truthfulness, straightforwardness and trustworthiness.

At Leaders Lab we firmly believe that if you attempt to ‘fake it’ as a leader, you put yourself under great pressure. Not only that, but your inauthenticity ‘leaks’ which makes you appear untrustworthy. Trying to be what you’re not is very stressful, and the bigger the ‘gap’ between what you are and what you purport to be, the greater the strain.

So rather than ‘act’ the part of a leader, the key is to focus on a particular leadership quality and to find it in your personality. It may not be naturally in abundance but whatever you focus on you make stronger, and if you can keep it consciously in your mind then you will find that your behaviour will be consistent with your thoughts and you will be authentic.

The principle is not dissimilar from method acting. This sounds counter intuitive – surely any ‘acting’ is pretending to be what you’re not and is therefore completely inauthentic? This is not actually the case. If an actor is going to play Lady Macbeth for example they won’t pretend to be Lady Macbeth. They will dig deep into their own personality to find that streak of pure, uncompromising ambition, in order to understand and become the woman who quite ruthlessly incites her husband to murder a king, for her own advancement.

Hopefully your ambition won’t lead you to such ruthless behaviour, but how does this principle work for you as a leader – or indeed the leader you’re trying to become? The Gallup Organisation has done extensive research into organisations worldwide, to capture the key qualities that people look for in a truly excellent leader. Out of this research they distilled the findings down to four key leadership qualities: trust, compassion, stability and hope. These qualities may go under different names, but essentially these are what people look for in leadership and excellent leadership communication skills.

For example, let’s reflect on the compassion in your leadership. At Leaders Lab we would never advocate that you pretend to be something you’re not, but you can develop the quality of compassion, by seriously reflecting on this aspect of your personality. What are you prepared to do within the needs of your organisation in order to show compassion? What are the limits to your compassion? Do you even see the need to be compassionate? It is only by consciously thinking about how you are, and how you behave that you can develop into a truly great leader.

Develop your leadership skills with Leaders Lab

Talk to us about your leadership aspirations