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How to Fake Being a Great Leader in Seven Steps

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

Becoming a great leader takes time. Learning to fake it, on the other hand, only takes a few minutes. That's right. To convince others you are a great leader, you just need to read this article and practice these seven steps.

1. Trust Your People

If you do not trust the people who work for you, you'll quickly become a paranoid, irritating micromanager. And, paranoid, irritating micromanagers are not great leaders they are, well, irritating. Instead, you've got to accept that the people reporting to you are competent, intelligent people who have not yet read this article and so are not yet leaders. Trust them and let them do their things. That will make you seem more leader-like and give you way more time to do important shit.


2. Make Decisions

The thing that differentiates leaders from the hoi polloi is that the former make decisions and the latter avoid making them. Fortunately, making a decision is remarkably easy to do. Just choose an option and don't sweat the consequences. That's all. Really. Try it sometime.

Most people are so scared of making  a decision at work that they will do anything to avoid it. Decision delaying tactics include: holding pointless meetings to brainstorm or gather feedback; demanding that direct reports prepare reports with lots of colourful graphs (useful trivia: reports with colourful graphs are much more convincing than reports without them, even if the graphs are irrelevant to the report); and hiring expensive consultants to make even longer reports with even more colourful graphs.

The reason these people are reluctant to decide is they fear they will make the wrong decision and so face consequences. In other words, they are wimps. Leaders are not wimps.

As a successful leader friend of mine, who works in finance, once said: "I can make a decision, see it go wrong and fix it before most people can even make a decision." That's a good attitude to emulate.

3. Ask Three Questions then Decide

Some decisions are so big, you need to give them substantial, leader-like thought − or at least pretend to do so. When you are faced with such a decision. Ask three questions and then decide irrespective of whether or not the questions actually help you understand the situation. If, as is likely, the answers to your questions do not provide clarity, do not worry. Do not ask more questions. Do not hold a meeting. Just decide (see above).

Incidentally, the questions you ask do not need to be relevant or even make sense. Indeed, asking obscure, seemingly irrelevant questions gives the impression you are wise and have special, leader-like insight that your followers are too dim to grasp.

If you are not sure what to ask, start with, "What's this going to cost us?" This is always a good, leader-like question that suggests you do not want to waste your precious time or thoughts on irrelevant details.


4. Have a Vision

Great leaders have great visions for their organisations. You definitely want to be like that. So, find yourself a good vision.

Avoid wussy, meaningless visions like "we flog great products at great prices". Only a loser would come up with a vision like that and you are not a loser. You are a leader.

"Transforming the way we think about personal transportation", for example, is a good, sexy vision − provided, of course, your business is about personal transportation. If it is not, replace "personal transportation" with whatever your business does.

If you are having trouble coming up with a great vision, I suggest a glass of Portuguese red wine, ideally from the Alentejo region. Alentejo reds are remarkably inspirational. You could also hire me. But, I'll be honest here, Portuguese red wine is cheaper.


5. Delegate Everything

Great leaders never actually do anything. Instead, they delegate every single task. This is why the best leaders are able to transform their businesses, be on dozens of boards, attend glamorous functions, write their autobiographies and have affairs. They delegate all of these things to others − except maybe the affairs.

If you do not have the resources to delegate everything, start by delegating the stuff you know nothing about. Then tell the people, to whom you have delegated these tasks, that "I trust you completely. Do what needs to be done and report back to me regularly. Include colourful graphs in your reports." Such a command sounds marvellously leader-like, motivates the person and pretty much hides the fact that you have no idea what she is doing on your behalf.


6. Compliment Everyone

The big mistake that most incompetent wannabe leaders make is believing that criticising others makes them look good. They are wrong. It makes them look pathetic, insecure and whiny. Great leaders understand that compliments are not only motivating, but make the complimentee think more highly of the complimenter. That can only burnish your leadership credentials. So compliment widely, even when it is undeserved.


7. Exude Confidence

cartoon: boy making faces at leader-like businessmanAppearing confident is an important aspect of leadership and one of the hardest characteristics to fake. It is hard, for example, to make a multimillion dollar decision when you do not know what you are doing. It is challenging to speak to a large crowd when you dislike public speaking. It is particularly difficult to lead when things go wrong. This is probably why a lot of CEOs hide booze in their offices. A shot of whisky can provide temporary confidence even when the world around you seems to be going to hell.

However, booze is not a good long term solution. Instead, practice standing up straight, squaring your shoulders and looking people in the eyes even when you talk with them − even when are not sure what you are talking about. You will appear more and more confident.

This is something that you should practice first as you would not want to be looking someone in the eye in a leader-like way and suddenly forget what you are saying, burst into laughter or vomit. Those are all very un-leader-like actions.

Practice appearing confident in the mirror. Then practice with friends and family. Ideally, practice with little kids as they will make funny faces at you. If you can feel confident while a child makes funny faces at you, you can demonstrate confidence in any situation.

Before you know it, you will be able to talk complete nonsense with complete confidence. From then on, it is easy to fake being a great leader.


That's It

That's it. It is all you have to do to fake being a great leader. Now, share this article with colleagues and friends to imply their leadership skills are not up to scratch and that they need a little help.

And then never, ever read another blog post on leadership again. Okay?

By the way...

This Article Would Also Make for a Fun Keynote or Workshop

"How to fake being a great leader" can be delivered as an entertaining keynote speech or interactive workshop. It's just the thing to liven up a businesslike annual meeting or special event. Learn more about this and other unbusinessy workshops and keynotes here or get in touch!

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