How to Avoid the Copy-Cat Leadership Trap

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One of the best ways to develop in your leadership is to learn from other leaders. Growing leaders will read about other great leaders, will seek to discern their leadership traits, even emulate their leadership skills.

In my own development as a leader, nothing has proven to be more effective than to study the leadership of the great leaders I have found in my orbit through the years.

But I have also learned that one of the worst things you can do is to short-circuit the process by merely attempting to copy these great leaders

Copy-cat leaders do little more than mimic someone else’s leadership style. They’ll try to copy the vision-casting style of Bill Hybels or the teaching mannerisms of Andy Stanley.

This may result in short-term success, but rarely will it yield the lasting impact that comes only from a deeper study of great leaders.

So how can you avoid falling into the copy-cat leadership trap?

1.   Ask more “why” questions; ask fewer “how” questions

For every “how” question (“How does that leader use illustrations in his talks?”), ask a bunch of “why” questions. “Why does that leader bring so much energy when dealing with issues of social justice?” “Why does that leader pour so much into younger leaders?”

“How” questions point to technique. “Why” questions point to values.

2.   Focus on a leader’s journey; not just their results

Many leaders want to copy the seemingly idyllic leadership lifestyle of Hawaii’s Wayne Cordeiro.

Few want to look at the years of burnout that he needed to endure.

Many leaders want to copy Craig Groeschel’s impressive media ministry.

Few want to look at the years of ministry spent in a garage.

The point is, the real “guts” of leadership is often found in studying these leaders’ most gruelling experiences.

3.   Seek to become the best leader you can be, not who someone else can be

God gave you certain leadership gifts, passions, dreams, and capacities.

Your goal must be to learn from other great leaders in order to fully grow into the leader God has called you to be, not to become some hybrid of other leaders.

Always learn from the leaders you most admire, but continually check your spirit to ensure you’re not seeking to merely copy them.

Because when it comes to your leadership, you were called to be a one-of-a-kind original, not a mere copy.

the author

Scott Cochrane

Vice President- International, Willow Creek Association. Love Jesus, Nora, Adam & Robin, Amy, Dave & Willow and John, Fiona & Will. Lifelong learner.

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