I like the old saying Fake it til you make it. Better yet, my colleague Alisa Solomon’s adaptation. Fake it til you feel it.
It works. Until it doesn’t.
I read lots of books on leadership. I love being inspired by new leadership thinking. Yet once in a while, someone utters something that puts all this new book wisdom to shame. Someone delivers a back-to-basics message.
Gustavo, a CEO with a resounding success record of turning troubled companies around, was addressing a group of mid-career professionals. His audience expected to hear insights on strategy, tips on execution, pointers on how to build great teams. Here’s what they got from Gustavo instead:
- Be genuine
- Care about people
You may go DUH. Of course. I know that.
Good. It’s the stuff we can’t fake. It feels especially compelling during Valentine’s Day week, a week when I like to celebrate my love of all beings.
Be genuine. Care about people. These tenets are the basics Dale Carnegie so compellingly wrote about in his 1936 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Back to the future. One of those books, social media and technology and all, that feels as fresh today as it did back then. We can’t fake the basics with technology. We can’t fake them with charm. We can’t. We sniff out the fakers at once. Without these two basics, our personal impact in the world is forever diminished. Lasting impact is impossible.
Let’s dissect these two tenets, shall we!
- Be genuine
We have created lots of code language around this notion. Be vulnerable, be transparent. Yeah, I like those words. If we’re going to go modern, I like be real best. Genuine has a more old-fashioned ring to it that I like even better. Allow me to translate: Don’t bullshit people. Don’t deliver fake-peppy talk. Don’t unload unexamined clichés on folks. Don’t dress up your conversation with lots of fancy jargon you’ve learned in a communication skills class. Don’t pretend to have answers that you don’t have. Don’t act like you have it all together when you don’t. Don’t hold me or anyone else to an idealized standard that no one can meet. Including you.
Have healthy boundaries, yes. But be real. Be human. Be genuine when you speak with me.
- Care about people
It doesn’t mean act nice. Doesn’t mean showering folks with gifts or compliments. Doesn’t mean discussing career planning or feigning interest in someone’s personal life. It may, in fact, mean firmly holding someone accountable and offering a bit of tough love. On the most essential level, caring about people springs from an unwavering belief that in the larger scheme of things, you and the other person are one. Regardless of position, of education, or social standing, at the soul-level there is no separation or separateness between you and me. Act from that place. It is the well from which true caring springs.
Have healthy boundaries, yes. And do not hold yourself separate from others.
I believe in fake it til you make it – when it comes to confidence, when it comes to tackling that which you have not yet mastered. You can’t, however, fake the people stuff. It doesn’t work.
Drop fully into being genuine and caring about people. If you already embody these qualities, you know how they help you meet every challenge with grace. If you have a sense that you can drop a little deeper, go ahead, make the drop.
And if you were to hop into a dinghy and head for a desert island where internet distractions are not to be found, take Dale Carnegie with you.
A very happy Valentine’s Day to all.