“You can go your own way! Go your own way…” ~ Fleetwood Mac
We all look up to someone.
For business leaders it may be Jack Welch, Steve Jobs or Oprah. We see and want their success. A small part of us wants their life. Their clothes, cars, houses, fame or money. So we watch, learn and emulate. We pay attention to how they talk and what they do.
Similarly, young leaders often follow in the footsteps of first bosses or co-workers. They take on their mannerisms, methods, behaviors and even moods.
Unfortunately, many people (including me) have learned the tough lesson that this isn’t the way.
In search of a magic formula
Early in my career I worked with a guy who was a very talented sales professional and master delegator. He had this energy that people loved when they first met him. After a few minutes of casual conversation, people would be practically begging to help him out.
For years I watched, learned and mimicked. As hard as I studied and tried, I never became as effective as him at sales or his ease of delegating. Did I learn some things and improve? Absolutely. But I discovered I would never have his specific magic. But it’s ok because I have my own. And so do you.
Heed Fleetwood Mac’s advice
It’s important that we develop into to the leaders we were meant to be. Not what someone else tells us we should be. Not what we see in others.
The only way to discover our own magic is to courageously begin the cycle of try-fail-adjust. Here are 5 ways to begin to find your own way:
1. Realize that what works for one, doesn’t for another
We’re all different. Just because one leader is charismatic and outgoing doesn’t mean you have to be. Many successful leaders have been introverted but very good at motivating a team.
2. Decide who you are, or someone else will
What makes you special? What do you believe in? What are your core values and priorities? How can you use your strengths to lead people? You are the only one who can answer these questions. Don’t let others try to do it for you.
3. Evaluate your examples, take only the good
As I mentioned, it’s great to learn from others. But we must carefully consider what to apply from others and what to figure out on our own. Know yourself first, take the good, and discard the bad. Don’t copycat to the point of stifling your potential.
4. Create a leadership development plan
This is no different than a fitness plan. How are you in shape and where do you need work? Be deliberate about how you’re going to develop as a leader. Read as much as possible. There are so many great leadership blogs and books out there. Check out free resources like this.
5. Try, fail and adjust
Lastly, don’t just sit there, do something. It’s important to take risks and try things to fully understand what works for you. Playing it safe is a waste of your talent and will leave you unsatisfied. Consider working with a business coach who will challenge and hold you accountable.
The most successful leaders master their own style. They watch and learn from the best who went before them, but then put their individual angle on it. We can all do this. We all have our “own way” that fits us better than someone else’s.
Now let’s go find it.
Check out the rest of the Leadership 101 series.