“Be true to yourself,” the saying goes, and people often roll their eyes. How cliché.
In this case, however, I think there’s good reason why the phrase is used with such frequency. After all, the leaders I’ve always admired most are guided by their personal passions, morals and values. As a result, they are able to write their own stories rather than having too many voices bog down the narrative.
There are multiple reasons why those at the top are most successful when they stand by their decisions:
1. The choices they make are, whether consciously or not, shaped by past triumphs. If it worked once, there’s a certain likelihood it will work again (circumstances being equal, of course).
2. Chances are the leader finds him/herself in a position of power because one or more person(s) felt he/she could handle it and had confidence in the new leader’s decision-making process.
3. Confidence is half the battle. If the one running the show acts the part, he/she will be more likely to convince the masses.
Yet being able to block out external voices has never been more challenging than it is today. Anyone who is connected on social media knows the number of thoughts, musings, and opinions an individual can be subjected to on any given day. Therefore, it can be quite difficult to distinguish one’s own feelings about a particular situation from that of the collective.
I should clarify that a good leader does indeed still listen to the people around him/her and is open to various perspectives. Yet the problem with being influenced too heavily by the group think is that at the end of the day, the person at the top has to make a call, and it’s difficult for a leader to back up his/her own decision if he/she isn’t sure what went into making that decision in the first place. I find that even if I don’t believe in someone’s choice on a given matter, I am usually more willing to “agree to disagree” if the decision-maker can show a strong sense of conviction.
There’s a difference between being selfish in your decision and standing by your principles. Sometimes, the masses won’t support the same beliefs as you, but if you can back up your choices with confidence, when it’s time to put the finishing touches on your story, I can almost guarantee that more people will want to consider the read (take it from an editor).
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Julie Perry edits nonfiction sports books at Skyhorse Publishing. She is also a part-time tutor in New York City. In her free time, Julie enjoys cheering for her favorite sports teams (especially the Mets), reading, writing and eating lots of sushi. A graduate of Brandeis University, Julie received her Masters degree from New York University.