How We Really Learn to Lead

You learn to lead the same way babies learn to walk, by observation, training, and experimentation.

Development in any arena begins by seeing what’s possible. Moms and dads show children what’s possible. Michael Jordan and Andre Bocelli show athletes and singers what’s possible.

Leadership growth begins by choosing the right models.

Mother duck with ducklings.

Imitation makes learning easy.


You learn to lead by imitation. Yes, you learn from books, but you learn more from imitation. The necessities of leadership are learned by imitation.

Imitation isn’t being fake. It’s finding your own path forward.

Too many novices prematurely rush to be themselves. They would be better off imitating someone else. Don’t rush to be yourself. Instead, rush to choose a model and be like them.

“Models are people who show us what is worth wanting.” Luke Burgis

Imitation makes growth easy.

Imitation happens every time you ask yourself what someone else would do.


Admiration fuels imitation. In other words, you become like the people you admire. One secret to becoming the leader you aspire to be is admiring the right leaders.

Negative models:

Choosing negative models is undervalued. Who don’t you want to be like?

The easiest way to be disgusted by your own negative behaviors is to see them in someone else.

Lousy leaders teach you things to not do. You always rise when you jettison the sandbags of negative behavior. Think of your worst boss and ask, “How am I like them?”

Go ahead, rage against that lousy boss. Make a list of their negative qualities. Record the things they do that you’ll never do. But most importantly, determine what you will do.

Reacting against bad is a delightful way to discover the good.

Who are you modeling your leadership after?

What qualities of a lousy boss do you strive to jettison?