“Fake it ‘til you make it.” You have heard it a million times, right? It sounds like opening lyrics written to convince someone of your value: “I have no idea what I’m doing but, baby, just trust me. Who needs proof when I can simply make a lie look pretty?” No matter how many people use that catchphrase, do not buy into this mindset without being sure that what you are saying reflects the message you intend to deliver. Besides, when you hear “fake,” what comes to mind? Fraud, counterfeit, sham…words that you would not dare use to describe what you want others to confidently perceive in you, like competence and capability. If strong relationships are built on trust, which is rooted in truth, then pretense and deception can damage any relationship if uncovered.
So, what is a viable, authentic alternative to “faking it ‘til you make it?” Model it until you master it. Sometimes, we observe others who are achieving what we desire and feel compelled to measure up. We all have experienced situations when we really want an opportunity, yet the requirements are far beyond our stretch capabilities—that good enough, 70-80 percent fit that still leaves room to be challenged. (If you are a 100 percent fit, where is the room to grow?)
I have worked with emerging entrepreneurs who launch products and services because they think what has seemingly been profitable for a competitor will produce financial success for them. For example, they copy marketing language, adopt the same systems, target duplicate markets and share on the same platforms thinking, “If I just look like they look, I will be successful.” If an opportunity lands in their laps, they often stumble because they are ill-prepared to meet customers’ expectations. I have served leaders who suffer from the “imposter syndrome,” trying so hard to hide what they do not want anyone else to know that they don’t know.
What or whom do you desire to be? One competency that presents significant modeling opportunities is effective leadership. If you want to become a visionary leader, rather than expending most of your energy trying to convince others that you are already there, incorporate these tips to help build mastery:
• Identify a specific area where you can consistently practice the key behaviors that help shape your leadership. If you need to sharpen your business acumen, read publications that target senior leaders. Learn about global trends, national headlines and local activities to have more informed, richer conversations;
• Make room for relationships that will challenge and stretch you. Create your own Professional Advisory Board—a team including mentors, sponsors, an executive coach and role models—to help support your development. Don’t have time? Delegate tactical activities to someone who could benefit from what you already know, making room for your growth; and
• Ask for support in the areas where your knowledge and experience are limited. If you are not as savvy about financial metrics, rather than sit through meetings in a fog, do what top leaders do—find a financial mentor, share your developmental need and build your skills. Take a class online through low- or no-cost, credible programs.
“Faking it” is a message you speak first to yourself. It takes significant effort to hide the truth. What would be different if you expended that energy preparing and modeling your brand—the experience you promise to those you serve? The mastery journey takes consistent, intentional and focused effort. It can be challenging. There are no shortcuts, but it is worth every ounce of confidence and competence gained on the journey!