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“Fake It Till You Make It”: Learning How To Lead


“Fake it till you make it” has always seemed like a void phrase, helping to get you through the bad moments in your life and make yourself appear in control in front of your friends and family, but nothing more.

However, leaders of the world stand by it. Transitioning to become a great leader takes more than a successful career and great professional accomplishments, it takes personal development. A leader is someone who shows that they can direct a team of people towards their goal and for that, it is necessary to grow into that role.

Most people think that success is due to their own individual abilities and efforts, and that if everyone’s individual input is excellent, the result should be excellent as well by association. However, this is a mistaken belief. Success comes from the team itself.

That’s when the phrase “fake it till you make it” comes in handy – you have to become that person that people will want to believe in, and that takes a lot of personal development. You must look inwards, at your failures and successes to later impact and inspire others with your words and ambition.

Personal development is hard to achieve and sustain. You must have in mind that what got you where you are at this moment, will not necessarily get you to where you want to be, it is all about progress; this is called the success trap.

We become better at what we already do well, and the more skilled we become at x, the greater the enjoyment and the more knowledge on x we will want to get. This ends up costing us opportunities in pursuing other, newer endeavours, expanding our knowledge on other subjects and interests, which could be very beneficial for ourselves.

A good leader needs to be willing to experiment with what does not come naturally. To lead well is to step out of your comfort zones. Trying new things, and not being scared to develop new methods, hear other perspectives, are a key rule to great leadership.

To find out which method works best, how to best organise and motivate your team, and in order to eventually find a way to combine a certain level of comfort and great results. you must step out of your initial comfort zones.

Another element that people who climb to a leadership position have look out for, is the Icarus phenomenon. High-potentials can derail and, in the way that strengths can easily become weaknesses, people can be victims of their own successes.

For example, being too caught-up in short term goals, and not having a vision for your team or your project is a manifestation of this phenomenon – whereby talent gets sidetracked for efficiency and rapidity.

Personal development in the workplace varies a lot. Not everyone changes the same way, and some change more than others. Indeed, people seek and have exposure to different people, situations, or expert domains, as well as have varied role models and different networks.

Learning to transition into a leadership role requires motivation, repeated deliberate practice, the right learning context, and meaningful feedback from colleagues and friends.

Managing oneself builds on the strengths one already has and shores up the weaknesses as well. It creates a persona of you being ready to manage and being responsible for the development of other people. Learning how to develop professionally occurs 70% on the job, not in the classroom, whilst 20% happens through critical relationships and 10% occurs through formal training programs.

This 70/20/10 rule shows very explicitly that only working on developing objective leadership skills excludes how to develop your own professional skills, your interactions with others, your social networks, and your projects.

Personal change is not only inevitable, it is also beneficial. New situations change behaviour and people. For example, as soon as you recognise or accept a promotion in an investment banking firm, and are now in charge of a team of people, your behaviour will change, and you will develop more leadership skills.

As you will get more authority and responsibility, your mindset and habits will change. It is not instantaneous and often requires time to adjust. Hence, the “fake it till you make it” saying is extremely relevant to learning how to lead. As Richard Pascale said: “you cannot think your way into a new way of acting: you can only act your way into a new way of thinking”.

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