Heroes. Most of us have in our live some heroes or people we look up to. Most of us get inspired by our idols. We try to do a lot of things to be like that person. But why do we do that? Why not to be ourselves and aspire to be the best “us” we can? Over the years in various management roles I have often adopted behavior of more experienced managers because I admired the way they dealt with certain situation only to discover that their approach simply didn’t work for me. Over the years I have seen people who focused so much on competing with others that they forgot to focus on themselves.
Focus on yourself, not others
Your boss has decided to quit. There is you and several of your peers who used to report to this person and it is obvious that one of you gets promoted to that job. So what would you do? Sadly, many people would focus more on others than on themselves. They would start seeing that Richard is friend with the former boss so he is probably closest to the promotion, they would see that Maria just got this new responsibility a month ago and without a good reason Peter is being often approach by senior managers when they need help. If you follow this train of thought you find yourself blaming others for your own shortcomings an feeling that life is unfair since others are getting all the breaks. Is this healthy? How exactly will thoughts like these help you to get to the next level? That is how five years old kid would behave and let’s face it, who would promote that kid to a leadership role?
The best thing you can do is to forget about the others and rather focus on what you can do and how you can improve. You should still strive to do your job to the best of your abilities and volunteer to take on some of the responsibilities of your boss. The trick here is where to focus. Do you rather focus on things that are highly visible to the management or on things that are more important for the daily survival of the organization? This decision really depends on company culture, on the way how the organization is set up, and on your priorities and goals in this life.
Focus on what you can influence
We all have so many things to do, so where do we spend our energy? There are two quotes that always guided my professional life and that I tried to impart on my team. “Pick your battles carefully,” and “focus on things you can influence.”
Yes, there are many things in this world and your job that would deserve your attention and that you could improve. There are many things that you can fight for. But is it worth it? If you decide to push for an idea or project that doesn’t have a wide support within the organization always consider whether it is worth the effort, what are the chances of success and what you will be giving up when you put your attention there.
If you are someone who is always complaining, always unhappy and always trying to fight everything, chances are you will stop being taken seriously. Don’t complain, if there is something that needs to be fixed, just jump in and fix it. And if it is something that is not under your control and there is no way you can fix it then just learn to live with it and focus your attention on things you can fix. If your standard mode of operation is being very cooperative, positive, and able to compromise then when there is something that really matters to you others will see your passion and your resolve and will get out of your way or even better will help you to achieve it.
Combine the best of both worlds
It is good to have in your life someone who guides you and acts as an inspirational idol. Just make sure you don’t mimic this person too much. Remember who you are and if you want to adopt something from his or her behavior make sure it is aligned with your own personality so you will still be you. Some of the key leadership traits are authenticity and consistency. If others believe that you are trying to be someone you are not, they will not follow. So when you decide to integrate a new skill or new way how to deal with situations you need to do it in a way that is natural to your own personality. For example, I may consider people like Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Marc Benioff (Salesforce) great leaders and admire their public performance and ability to rally forces to get things done. However, if I would decide to mimic their heavily extroverted behavior I would fail as my team would most likely say “What’s wrong with Tomas, this is not him. What is he trying to pull here?” So instead of trying to be like these two guys I will try hard to be myself and over the time, step by step, incorporate some of the traits I admire on them. That way I will give myself enough time to develop the new skill and be still myself.
Twitter type summary: “Stop trying to be someone else. Be who you are, pick your fights, focus on what you can influence and you will have a fulfilling life.”
What about you? Do you have someone in your life you admire and learn from?