Fake It Until You Make It?

Years ago, I attended a leadership conference for a large, publicly traded company I worked for. It was my 2nd time attending this conference. I would have considered myself to be quite the keener – always buying into whatever message the executive team were selling, especially since I had a lot of admiration and respect for the CEO. At least I did until that conference. One of the key messages from the CEO just didn’t resonate with me. It wasn’t something I could buy into. It was not a message that rang true with me. The message was “that as leaders, it was our job to fake it until we make it”.

“Fake it until you make it” is a cliché we hear a lot in the business world, albeit not usually as advice from the CEO. It means to pretend you are experienced and have the tools that are necessary to be successful in your position. It means to fake confidence and competence when you are lacking.

I believe that you cannot fool people, at least not for very long, by faking it. People are intuitive and smart and can perceive the lack of authenticity. You are not really fooling anyone by faking it. Ultimately, people will categorize you as being dishonest, unauthentic, and someone not to be respected or trusted. Often these are the people we label the ‘know-it-all’ because they are over-compensating for their lack of ability and confidence by being overbearing in conversation…. Over-selling and over-telling themselves and their ideas. Moreover, is not the very act of telling yourself to fake it, which is really a form of negative-self talk, doing more harm than good to your self-esteem?

Let me ask you - is it not better to allow your weaknesses to show, to be authentic and trustworthy? What is wrong with saying “I do not know, but I will find out and get back to you”. Or, “I need your help”. Or simply taking the approach of asking great questions instead?

Should we as leaders really know all the answers to everyone’s questions? Should we fake it or should we show vulnerability?

You know what I think on the subject, but I welcome your comments.


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