This is the key to becoming a great leader


I have spent the last year doing a deep dive into my personal leadership style. I’ve done this for self-improvement and because some great leaders and mentors have challenged me to take a look at my skills. I’ve read countless blogs and books on leadership, specifically women leaders, and how they have succeeded at the helm.

There are a million different things books will tell you to be if you want to succeed as a woman in your career. Warm. Decisive. Strong. Nurturing. Formidable. Approachable. Fierce. Feminine. Confident. Calming. The list goes on and on.

After reading the literature, I came to this conclusion:

There’s no way one woman could be all of those things. There is no way I could be all of those things.

We all know leaders who have that one attribute they do especially well. Some lead from the front, clear giving us an example of what we strive to be. Some lead from the sidelines, coaching us in the game. Some lead from behind, pushing us forward.

No matter their style of leadership, the best leaders I know succeed not because of one special characteristic, but because they do so authentically.

I’ve had some great bosses and physicians who I model myself after. The majority of them are men, as most of those in leadership are men. I appreciate those who lead in his or her own individual style and those who lead being true to themselves. There is an honesty found in leaders who know who their strengths. They know what they are and what they aren’t, and they don’t try to bend and sway to every suggestion.

Self-evaluation is necessary for personal growth. Sometimes challenges naturally speed up the process (that would be an understatement in my life), but even on mountain tops, introspection and truly evaluating one’s own weaknesses is important.

I would be lying if I didn’t say it is quite exhausting to work on your weaknesses. It is vitally important to be in a dynamic process of self-improvement and to be honest with one’s weaknesses. It is how resilience grows.

But equally important is this: In my life, I have learned I am most successful when I am authentic. 100 percent fully me. When I am no one else, not even my most successful mentor, but Sasha. I am equally successful and equally at peace when I embrace my own strengths and lead with them. When I choose to live on my own career path and my own expectations.

I am becoming the leader only I can be. I am blazing my own path, and there is peace in that. And when I fail, there is strength in even my shortcomings, because I am failing in a way others have not.

Learn from your mentors and supervisors. They are great studies.

But be you. Unapologetically, you.

Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.

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