In today’s age of information, there is an abundance of resources on how to become a successful leader. In many cases, these resources encourage the reader to copy the patterns of other successful leaders. There is real validity to this — after all, everyone learns by emulating those whom they admire. I have learned valuable lessons through reading about great leaders of the past and present.

However, to become leaders in our own right, we really can not “copy” anyone. Instead, we must embrace who we are and the unique combinations of strengths and weaknesses that shape us and make us individuals. Rather than forcing ourselves into a narrow definition of what a leader does, we should recognize the qualities in ourselves that allow us to lead and focus on developing them further. I believe it is through becoming more of who we are that we create positive change in our lives and find the best way to use our gifts for the benefit of others.

Be Your Own Person

A recent DailyGood article written by Wayne Muller, who is a leadership mentor, consultant, public speaker, and bestselling author, includes this advice for leaders:

“Although many of the popular plans to become a great leader involve being just like a successful celebrity entrepreneur, or copying what another successful leader did, people don’t ever change by becoming someone else. People change by seeking, finding and nourishing the best of who they are. They persist through the dark, heart-shredding times. They reach deeper into their true nature, the source of their best wisdom, courage and passion.”

As you can deduce from this quote, it is simply not productive to try to mimic the success of others. Trying to fill the shoes of a great leader will lead to frustration and feelings of failure, as we try to negate our own instincts in order to follow someone else’s. We must instead become our own true self. Instead of trying to fit into someone else’s leadership “mold”, we can highlight our own strengths and develop our own pathways to success.

This isn’t an easy process, of course. As Muller’s quote reveals, it is often the “dark, heart-shredding times” that reveal our strengths to us. Finding our own path means staying present with ourselves and others through the toughest times, searching for the lessons that every moment has to teach us. But every trial makes us stronger, as long as we find the light within ourselves and around us that guides us through. That light might be our compassion, our work ethic, or our capacity for forgiveness — all qualities we look for in a great leader.

Cultivate Your True Self

When we seek to find the abilities in ourselves that help us lead others, we are on a journey to develop our “true self” – not through borrowing the qualities of others, but in cultivating our own best qualities. As we strive to identify our strengths and help them grow, we create positive change in our lives and the lives of those around us. It can be hard to know where to begin, though. These tips, chosen from a Lifehack article entitled “42 Practical Ways to Improve Yourself,” can be of great help in the struggle to develop your best qualities:

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone: To be a great leader, you have to be willing to explore and stretch your boundaries. Therefore, it is crucial that you get out of your comfort zone. This might mean getting up the courage to introduce yourself to someone you admire, or joining a book group to talk about big ideas in front of others. Nudging the edges of the boundaries that we create for ourselves often teaches us just how arbitrary and self-imposed they are, and how much more we are capable of than we believe.

Meditate: As I’ve previously written, meditation can be a powerful agent of change in our lives. Meditation focused on discovering the authentic self and expansive consciousness leads to the dissipation of dissatisfaction and distress. The goal is awakening to the fullness of life, rather than temporary relaxation and pacification.

Write in a Journal (or a blog!): When we write about our life and experiences, we gain self-awareness. After all, journaling is a self-reflection process. That’s one of the reasons I keep this blog! The challenge of articulating my thoughts helps me process information and actually learn more about what I feel and think. Looking back over my writing, I become aware of themes that emerge, and what I have that is of value to share with others.

Finding our true self is a matter of awareness, of dropping false ideas of being “less than” by moving in confidence towards our true selves. Knowing ones true self permits the ebb and flow of good leadership, because good leaders always know when to follow. True awareness leads to humility, the hallmark of good leadership. Spirit resides in this awareness. Heart-focused awareness creates the possibility we can find our true selves.

I hope these tips are helpful on your journey to cultivating your true self. I am enjoying my journey greatly and am always interested in sharing stories and revelations. Tweet @ace_wagner to start a conversation!