Good leaders are honest about who they are

Don't try to fake it, says Debra Allcock Tyler

Turkey: a country renowned for its rich and majestic history, colourful culture and landscape. The Ottoman Empire; the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus; the birthplace of St Paul the Apostle and Homer, who wrote the Odyssey and the Iliad.

But also a country renowned for its variety and inventiveness when it comes to knock-offs: Prado; Dolcheese & Gabbanik; Raybuns.

My husband and I regularly stay in a little village near Fethiye on the southern coast. For years, the local shop was simply called Mehmet's. It sells local produce, fresh fruit and veg, sun hats, the odd designer knock-off and outrageously overpriced sun cream. Great little shop.

Last year, Mehmet's rebranded as ‘Teskos'. Mehmet says he made the move to associate his shop with the supermarket chain so that more English people would come and buy from him. However, it will be clear to anyone who goes into the shop that it isn't Tesco. It's still Mehmet's. It is still exactly the same shop, selling the same stuff, and no one is fooled into thinking it is a real Tesco.

So why do it? Well, you could argue that what Mehmet is doing is being a clever capitalist. Or you could say that he isn't confident in his own brand and therefore feels the need to fake it.

How many of us are tempted to fake it as leaders, pretending to be something we are not; looking up at others who seem to be better than we are and pretending to have some of their qualities?

For me, it's Julia Unwin, director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I would give my eye teeth to be that woman. Clever, calm, poised, elegant, analytical and exuding gravitas.
 
But here's the thing: no one is fooled - at least not for long - by Prado or Tesko or Debrulia Unwincock Tyler. No one is fooled by us pretending to be what we are not. Be honest about who you are; what you are and are not good at.

Then surround yourself with people who can tell you the truth and compensate for your flaws. Want to be an effective leader? Then be really good at being yourself.

- Debra Allcock Tyler is chief executive of the Directory of Social Change and a trustee of MedicAlert

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