I don’t love bread.
Unless I’m in Paris.
I am not regularly in Paris.
However, I have a searing memory from when I traveled to Paris and wandered into a little bakery and purchased a simple loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, and a bottle of cheap wine. I took my little lunch on the train to Versailles and picnicked in the gardens.
One remarkable lunch.
Every now and again, I wander into a neighborhood chain French restaurant. The bakery shelves glowing and gleaming. Everything looks delicious. It looks like I’m back in France.
I apparently suffer from selective amnesia because I know it only LOOKS good. The second I bite into the beautiful bread or pastry, I immediately recognize I am nowhere near Paris. I am in a strip mall in Houston.
Have you ever served under a strip mall, faux-French bread leader?
And if I’m honest, I’ve BEEN a strip mall, faux-French bread leader.
Those leaders wear the right clothes or say the right things or use the correct terminology, but it’s not who they are. They don their faux exteriors every morning like their pinstripe suit and do their best to look like other leaders they think lead well.
If you’re struggling with this like I have, then let me wave the warning flag: people always find out when you are not authentic. Even the most impressive showman will eventually be found out. Toto pulls back the curtain on the Great Wizard of Oz only to reveal the show – smoke and lights.
You may not feel like your natural personality or your background or your pedigree lends itself to leadership. You are wrong.
You are uniquely equipped to lead a team as only you can. Trying to lead it like someone else is uniquely qualified to do will end badly.
The authors of True North said it better and researched it more, but they offered the same truth:
During the past fifty years, leadership scholars have conducted more than one thousand characteristics, or personality traits of great leaders. None of these studies has produced a clear profile of the ideal leader.
Thank goodness. If scholars had produced a cookie-cutter leadership style, people would forever be trying to emulate it. That alone would make them into personas, and others would see through them immediately.
The reality is that no one can be authentic by trying to be like someone else.
Let me encourage you today to sit down with a pen and paper. Write down your best attribute. Your greatest strength. Don’t overthink it. No one is sitting there with you. Write down what comes to you first.
What do you love? What do you do well? When do you receive compliments?
If you aren’t showcasing the characteristics you write down, then start today. Incorporate them into your every day. Trust what you do well.
You want to be the French bread at Versailles. The bite that is perfect unadorned. People will come back for more once they have a taste of the true you. (And don’t let anyone, including yourself, tell you any different.)