The Two Things You Can’t Fake

I read lots of books on leadership. I love being inspired by new thought. And once in a while, someone utters something that puts all this new book-wisdom to shame.  Someone delivers the back-to-basics message.

Mitch, a CEO with a resounding success record of turning troubled companies around, addresses a group of mid-career professionals. His audience expects to hear insights on strategy, tips on execution, wisdom on how to build great teams. Here’s what they get from Mitch:

  1. Be genuine

  2. Care about people

You may go DUH. Of course. I know that.

Good. These are the basics Dale Carnegie so compellingly wrote about in his 1936 classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Back to the future. You can’t fake the basics with technology. You can’t fake them with charm. You can’t. And without these two basics, your personal impact in the world is forever diminished. Lasting impact is impossible.

Let’s break down these two items, shall we?

  1. 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 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.

Have good boundaries. But be real. Be human. Be genuine.

  1. 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 expressing 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, there is no separation or separateness between you two. Act from that place. It is the well from which true caring springs. Please have boundaries. Do not be 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.