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Leadership Thought #217 – Be Yourself But Be Smart About It

September 21, 2011

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Be yourself because you have no other options.

There are few things more unappealing than someone trying to be something they are not.  If your actions aren’t genuine, people notice it right away.  This doesn’t mean that you have a license to behave any way you choose, but every individual should do their best to tap into the better parts of their nature.  It’s not always easy, but if you want to lead others, it is a professional imperative.  The only way to be at your best is to leverage those parts of your personality and behaviors that allow you to constructively deal with any situation.  I disagree with many management and leadership books that say you must “fake it until you make it.”

All adults should be expected to act like adults regardless of how much power or money they have (or don’t have).  This doesn’t mean you won’t be human and slip up sometimes, but it does mean you’ll strive to catch yourself when you fall, learn from your mistakes and do better the next time.  The key emphasis is on YOU and taking responsibility for your attitude and actions.  This is all you can control.  We all have individual strengths and vulnerabilities that make us who we are.  You can’t go against the grain of your own personality for too long.  The key is to navigate whatever life has in store for you in the best manner possible given who you are.

I like what Daniel Goleman writes about emotional intelligence, especially his thoughts on self-awareness, self-regulation, and social skillNo one is ever successful alone.  It is impossible to go through life without having to interact with and often rely on other people.   To do this effectively you need to establish trust, credibility, and rapport.   The easiest and best way to do this is to be true to who you are and allow the other person to do the same.  Without pretense and with the right intentions you can easily get to the heart of any situation.  However, unlike a small child who has limited ability to separate what they feel from what they say and do, adults need to think before responding and they should access those parts of themselves that are most likely to lead to a successful outcome/interaction.  It’s always wise to play to your strengths and strive to mitigate your weaknesses – we all have both.