In the March 2016 Entrepreneur Magazine, there was a great article about 22 Must Have Leadership Qualities. I found the article to be so powerful that I am spending a few minutes each week thinking about how I can improve these leadership skills myself. Like most things in life, you get what you focus your attention on. Here is #11 – Authenticity.
It’s true that imitation is one of the greatest forms of flattery, but not when it comes to leadership – and every great leader in my life, from Mike Tomlin to Olympic ski coach Scott Rawles, led from a place of authenticity. Learn from others, read autobiographies of your favorite leaders, pick up skills along the way… but never lose your authentic voice, opinions and ultimately, how you make decisions.
Jeremy Bloom, cofounder and CEO, Integrate
When I first started attending college at my local community college, I was a student of History before changing my major to Finance. While I didn’t receive a degree in History, I have maintained my interest in learning about significant events and leaders that have helped to shape our World and more specifically our country. It might be boring for some but two of my favorite genres of books are Biography and History, followed closely behind by Business. This quote on authenticity, by Jeremy Bloom, struck a chord with me and made me put some deeper thought into how leadership can be acquired and how it’s demonstrated.
Leadership Can Be Taught but Must Be Lived
While leadership can be taught in classes and fills volumes of books in libraries, leadership must be personally experienced and demonstrated in order to have the lessons ingrained in a man’s soul. Anyone can read a textbook on leadership or a biography about a great leader and what they experienced while making difficult decisions. However, until you are personally faced with a similar situation in your own life, you won’t really know how you would respond.
I’m currently reading the book, Extreme Ownership – How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, which has furthered my belief that leadership, like many other skills, has to be practiced and applied in order to be learned. Yes, I can glean some ideas and concepts about what Navy Seal leaders experience in the battlefield, but I will most likely never be put in that specific situation and have to look for other ways in my daily life to apply these leadership traits.
Of course, you can’t become a great leader just by reading books on leadership or biographies of leaders. No, in order to become a great leader you must encounter situations in your life that you can demonstrate the traits of good leaders that you have read about. Without practical experience, knowledge is sometimes useless information.
In addition to needing to have real world situations to apply leadership principles to, it is also important to understand that each leader must develop their own leadership style. What worked for General Patton to motivate his men during World War II might not work for the team of web designers you manage at work. I don’t think that many of us are at risk of literally translating the leadership lessons learned in leadership books or historical biographies, but it’s a good warning none the less.
By all means, read as much about leadership as you can. Find heroes in literature that you can emulate. But at the end of the day, you need to be your own leader and find your own voice. If you don’t, people will easily see through your facade and won’t be able to trust in you to lead them at all.