Be a Student of Style

be a student of styleOne of the most powerful practices for becoming an effective leader is to observe people around you who are successful in business. What habits and actions make them that way? What do they do that you wish you could do better? Whether it’s a boss who stays cool under pressure or a team leader who is gifted in inspiring others, these are the types of role models that provide perfect opportunities for you to learn real-world techniques. By making a commitment to pay attention to those who’ve mastered something you admire, you can adopt what they do, adapt it to your needs, and become an astute leader with a more effective style of your own.

Kobe Bryant once said: “I have stolen all these moves from all these great players. I just try to do them proud, the guys who came before, because I learned so much from them. It’s all in the name of the game. It’s a lot bigger than me.”

Stealing moves. That’s what great players do. That’s what great leaders do, too. And it’s perfectly Ok for you to do it. It starts with determining who you admire and uncovering what you admire about them. For example, early on in my professional career, I didn’t think to read leadership books to improve my skills or become more effective in my management or career. I learned most of my moves from a handful of people around me, specifically some of those I worked with and respected. These were leaders and fellow colleagues who had traits or habits that clearly helped them in their jobs. Some were proficient in a certain skill, while others were incredibly inspiring and a few were just very effective in general. They were right in front of me, so I made a conscientious choice to watch and learn. I observed them.

However, I knew that observing wasn’t all there was to being a good student of leadership style. I realized the power of “diving deeper.” So I asked these people to sit down with me and explain how they got so good at doing what they did well. Often, it would surprise me to learn that they had worked very hard to adopt a particular habit or to perfect a certain trait because they, too, had once been weak in that area. Something that seemed so effortless or natural was often the result of shear hard work on their part.

That somehow made whatever I wanted to change seem much more doable. As well, these conversations often had other benefits. They nurtured my relationship with those leaders, showed initiative on my part, and ultimately helped me grow and improve professionally — all of which played a role in helping me to advance my career.

So if you’re interested in becoming a student of style, consider asking yourself:

  • Who do you admire?
  • What do you admire about them?
  • How can you dig deeper to learn how to adopt that special something, so you can then shape it to your unique self and make it your own?

Who are your leadership role models? What lessons have you taken from their examples?


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