Great leadership should be a cause for celebration, not imitation. We can admire the attributes and skills of others but attempting to imitate them will result in a weak pastiche of the real thing evident through ‘speaking in tongues’, leading to scepticism or even ridicule.
We all come to our roles with decades of socialisation and psychological pathways wired into the way that we attune and attend to the world around us.
The most authentic leadership styles are those forged through values-based principles and behaviours. It follows that what we admire most in others is likely to be based upon:
- values aligned to our own
- delivery in a convincing manner
- leading the success of the organisation and its people
Aspiring leaders cannot simply borrow or adopt the style of a successful leader in one context, and then supplant it for their own in a different context. However, what they can do, quickly and successfully, is measure the extant culture and values where they want to exercise influence against their own – for best fit. Then, with all humility understand and, where necessary, ameliorate their own behavioural preferences in order to provide authentic sensegiving for people they hold in unconditional positive regard.
This approach requires a disciplined approach, however, people will always value the difference between purpose-driven, values-led authenticity, and the insincerity of pale imitation.
“I was trying to be everyone I’d ever worked for”
The leaders that made me: Xavier Rees believed you had to act a certain way if you wanted to become MD.
Authenticity remains one of the more underrated leadership qualities.
For a long time, it’s what Havas CEO Xavier Rees thought. He’d always harboured ambitions to be an MD, but the archetype he saw among many of the leaders in the ad industry as he was coming up was at odds with the type of leader he was comfortable being.