“Fake it until you make it.”
I used to love this phrase. The way it bolstered my confidence to try something I didn’t know how to do. It gave me permission to go after jobs I wasn’t 100% sure I could do with my eyes closed from day one.
But over time, my love grew into disenchantment. A reverse fairytale. I woke up one morning shocked to realize the prince I was spooning had turned into a toad.
Hidden in this phrase is the notion that you only have permission to do something if you know how to do it. The misconception that pretending you have all the answers and walking around with inflated confidence is the path that leads to success. Honesty, humility, and asking for help have no place on the road to “making it”.
This phrase is an embodiment of inauthenticity.
The bygone era of CEO’s beating their chests with supreme confidence, and a top-down dictator-knows-best approach. An approach that amputates psychological safety and in its place ushers in a whistler-blower culture.
The bygone era where CEO’s deliver gold stars with every group-think nod of agreement from their council of Yes Men. The blind loyalty of Yes Men removes the checks and balances needed for good corporate governance.
Steady as you go until you hit an iceberg.
This leadership style was responsible for colossal corporate failures like Enron’s bankruptcy, Boeing’s 737 Max safety issues, and Wells Fargo putting sales metrics ahead of ethics.
These actions destroy trust. Not just for the companies put on trial in the court of public opinion, but for the entire “fake it” corporate culture that self-servingly bends the rules and fudges the truth.
Fortunately, the status quo blinders are dropping from our collective eyes.
What was once acceptable business practices no longer are.
Leaders are being challenged to take accountability for their corporate operations, and to step up to help solve the world’s most difficult challenges—climate change and inequality.
In this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world there is no roadmap to certain success, and “fake it until you make it” is a surefire way to smash into a brick wall.
The successful leaders in the new era we find ourselves in, are courageously willing to try what’s never been done before. They set ambitious Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) targets alongside their growth goals while humbly admitting they don’t (yet) know how to achieve them.
They set these targets because they know this collective work, this collective accountability, is absolutely critical to our collective future.
They are doing the difficult work to shift corporations’ role in our history from villain to hero. Every day, bravely writing a new chapter.
Their confidence isn’t misguidedly placed on their individual capability. Instead, they believe in the ingenuity of their workforce and the power of nurturing a collaborative advantage with external partners. They understand that when combined, these two force-multipliers have the capability to figure out a path to accomplishing their audacious targets one radically innovative step at a time.
The days of faking it are over.
Transparency, honesty, and the ability to inspire collective action toward a grand vision are the traits of today’s leaders. These are the traits that enable their organizations to move fast, collaborate, and achieve the seemingly impossible.