Why you can't succeed pretending to be someone or something you're not

Why you can’t succeed pretending to be something – or someone – you’re not.

It was Oscar Wilde who said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”.

Today, in many quarters of society, we see people who lose their voice and authenticity in an attempt to be liked by everyone or to appease both sides of an ideological divide.

In their efforts to build a support base or solidify relationships they stop pushing the boundaries and speaking up and out.

Now, more than ever, we need leaders who are willing to take a stand on things that matter.

It’s not a popularity contest

Great leaders know that leadership isn’t a popularity contest. It often involves making tough decisions, and so they question, challenge and listen to the ideas of ideas.

Central to this is that they know their values and what they stand for.

Ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I stand for and what my underlying values are?
  • Do I know what drives my thoughts and behaviour?
  • Are my words and actions aligned with my values?
  • Am I consistent in how I operate?
  • Do I treat people fairly?

Answering these questions will provide insight into the authenticity of your leadership style.  But that’s just the beginning.

It will help if you go one step further and ensure you are:

  • Open to feedback from those around you – and at different hierarchical levels. Get direct feedback from people and be willing to reflect, and when required, act on that feedback
  • Prepared to self-reflect – so you are able to see how you are feeling, thinking and ultimately reacting to what’s going on around you
  • Open to trying new things – as the circumstances may require you to adapt and step forward in a different way

Back yourself

To be successful you don’t need to be someone else.  Success is about understanding yourself and leveraging the assets you bring to the table.

When you change who you are (your beliefs, ideas and actions) to be a carbon copy of the people you want to impress, you lose out in the long run.

It impacts your identity, which does enormous damage to your confidence and sense of self-worth.

Research shows that when a person stops being their authentic self it causes psychological distress, which can have ongoing emotional and physical ramifications.

It also impacts how people perceive and relate to them.

Colleagues and team-mates will see when a person shifts and changes their behaviour and ideas.  They’ll notice the disconnect between what they say and what they do.

This breeds distrust because the person’s credibility and integrity is in doubt.  Once that happens it becomes far harder, if not impossible, for them to build a coalition of support for ideas and projects they are leading.  Any influence they had is gone.

Stand up and be counted

When people no longer know what you stand for they start to question the intent of your actions. This makes it far harder for them to collaborate with and support the work you do.

In time, this puts your career on the downhill slide because you can’t be successful in an organisation without being able to work effectively with the people around you.

In contrast, when a person is authentic and stands behind their values, has a clear personal brand and behaves consistently it is far easier to connect with them and build a long lasting relationship.

This is because you know what you will get when you collaborate and engage with them.  There’s no surprise, and you know that person won’t let you down or say one thing and do another.

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