Some of the Worst Leadership Advice…Ever

Ganesha Army

I came across this bit of ridiculousness in a LinkedIn post, a few weeks back…

Confidence: Fake it till you make it! Nobody wants an insecure leader or employee. If you don’t know what you are doing, act like you know what you’re doing until you know what you are doing. Preparation is key because when you prepare, you feel genuinely confident and others trust that you know what you are doing because…well, you do. Attitude is everything, and the mind achieves what the mind believes.”

“Fake it till you make it!” What a load of bunk.

This is what got Wall Street into trouble; this is a gung-ho “Sales Team of the ’70’s” attitude that undermines credibility and depletes integrity from any environment. A leader who “fakes” knowledge and experience – in any industry and specifically in production, show and entertainment – is not a Leader at all.

S/he is a Fake: and that fakery will show up in the quality of the Product and be reflected in the attitude of the Team.

The second sentence is true, actually; nobody wants an insecure leader…ironically in this case, an exceptionally pithy example of insecurity is a manager or ostensible leader who is “faking it.”

As a leader, one is much better off being secure in what one does not know; knowing where to find and learning how to apply such knowledge sought and found. Learning alongside one’s team engenders an authentic, profound respect from one’s colleagues and teammates.

A secure leader doesn’t have to actually know everything; a leader who isn’t afraid to learn will earn a far more solid position among peers, superiors and subordinates.

A leader who can learn teaches humility and learning ability. A leader who “fakes it” teaches his team to lie. (…and probably laugh behind his back at his delusion that anyone is being fooled…)

In my business, there are Producers who are known for acting as though they know everything about Production. These guys get in the face of Lighting Designers, Production Coodinators, Choreographers, Composers, Riggers and Stagecraft Professionals and attempt to second-guess the work and process of others who’ve spent years focused on the area(s) of theatre to which they are committed…committed to being the best at what they do.

Those are Producers who give Producers a bad name.

Then, there are the Real Producers.

A Real Producer knows to stand back; to inspire his experts and let these experts do their best work…knowing when good work is being done and supporting the team in doing it. A Leader Inspires; embraces learning, learns from the people on her team and keeps the team moving in the right direction; eyes focused on the ultimate vision of the show.

Nobody knows Everything About Production. Everyone brings experience, knowledge and passion to their jobs. A leader learns of that experience and seeks to benefit from it; a leader appreciates the knowledge his team members bring to the table and embraces the passion with which that knowledge is applied.

This doesn’t mean “don’t talk to your technicians” or anything like that. Not at all. Clear communication of vision, goals and objectives is key to success. Further, asking one’s professionals how they are accomplishing the work is often appreciated by those pros…when the question is based in seeking knowledge (rather than seeking some sort of “advantage”).

Collaboration alleviates obfuscation, nurtures and incites creativity and strengthens relationships.

Likely, everyone on the team appreciates being asked about what they do and sharing their own knowledge and experience. Asking them is acknowledging their expertise. It shows appreciation for the work and focus one’s team member has put in to being the best at what s/he does.

Learn from your team; the decisions you make, your artistic, logistical and even dramaturgical choices will be the better for it.

So. Rather than “fake it till you make it…”

How about…

“Learn It and You’ll Earn It”?  

Just sayin’.


In closing, a note on Integrity. This is a word often thrown around by the self-righteous when things aren’t going their way. Integrity is not a casual thing, and one cannot be selective in meaning what one says and keeping one’s word.

Integrity is a constant discipline.

One must be committed to doing what one says; committed to one’s word being always dependable. Should that which makes the keeping of a given agreement change, Integrity calls for immediate acknowledgement of that change.

There is no “play” in this: the keeping of one’s word is paramount. Acknowledging one’s mistakes and taking responsibility for resolution is an act of Integrity. Realizing one cannot keep one’s word and taking steps to acknowledge and rectify that is Integrity. There is no escaping daily opportunities for embracing Integrity. Not always easy, actions of Integrity often result in stronger personal and professional relationships, healthier reputations, respect and credibility granted from one’s peers.

Once one begins to evaluate where one’s word has been given and whether or not one’s word is worth keeping after the fact; one has departed the realm of Integrity and crossed into another.

IMHO – Keep Your Word.


“IMHO: Creating Compelling Experience” is a free downloadable eBook on the tenets and methodologies we use to…create compelling experience. Find it in the iBooks app on any Apple device or in iTunes at this link. .

8 thoughts on “Some of the Worst Leadership Advice…Ever

  1. As always, your posts are a juggernaut of “F@#cking finally someone puts it out there and in words that detangle the needless complexity.”
    From a performance perspective (athletic, artistic), I get how “Fake it till you make it” actually works for some people. If an athlete/performer is completely prepared…and that which they’ve prepared is awesome, top quality…confidence in the “selling” of the athlete/performer’s stuff can still be lacking. Enrolling and engaging others is critical…and in that instance, appearing to be confident is paramount to being confident about the presentation. Stepping into the shoes of someone who is an amazing sales person (fake it till you make it) works for some. The person who wrote the passage you included doesn’t get it. If you’re unsure as to whether your plan and product sucks or not….seriously, take up tennis. Haha! But if you’re great at the plan and product…but suck at selling it, learning how to appear confident might actually work sometimes.
    The part you wrote about integrity? Genius. Admitting you don’t know is the path to being both professional **and knowing because you learned**!!
    Again– awesome stuff. And even in my special set of circumstances…? The “fake it” technique is an illusion. To advise folks to “fake it” seems abhorrent to me.

    • …and thank you for your nuanced perspective, Mr. Mattis. True…the “faking” of confidence – especially in performance – can actually beget authentic confidence. (…Not to oversimplify your addition, at all…) I agree with that sort of “fakery” – as it’s similar to method acting… Faking knowledge, faking experience, faking expertise: something else entirely. I love agreeing with you. And that Integrity Thing; don’t get me star…oh, I started myself!

  2. Kyle
    your insights and timing are perfect. I guess when I think about it, that’s what makes our teams successful at work. I’m starting a new project there and this will fit in for the entire project team. Everyone is going to have to ‘learn it’ and take the integrity walk together.

    You’ve hit the nail! Thank you

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