Tech Manager—Leadership Cloning
Everyone is like a good leader. You probably think you are a good leader and think that others who pattern their leadership after what you have learned will be good leaders also. As you bring people along, they will start to act like you. Part of you hopes this will happen. They will watch and learn. They will see you in action and follow in your steps. They will imitate your methods, learn from your guidance and start producing like you do. Or so you hope. Or do you? According to brainyquote.com, Charles Caleb Colton says, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” so don’t we all want to be imitated? Don’t we all want others to lead just like us? Can’t we just clone them? Can’t we just clone me?
From genome.gov, the term cloning describes several different processes that can be used to produce genetically identical copies of a biological entity. The copied material, which has the same genetic makeup as the original, is referred to as a clone. Researchers have cloned a wide range of biological materials, including genes, cells, tissues and even entire organisms, such as a sheep.
Remember Dolly the cloned sheep? She was born in July 1996. She grew up and gave birth to 6 lambs, the last one born in 2000. She was put to sleep in February 2003 at the age of six after contracting lung cancer from a sheep retrovirus. Following the postmortem, Dolly will be donated to the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, where she was stuffed and put on display. But I digress… back to leadership.
As you lead, others are watching. They notice, they perceive, they ponder and slowly they clone themselves to match what they are impressed with in you. They also hopefully avoid the negative traits they see in you. A Mini-Me kind of process that stamps out an exact copy. Leaders really like this – it flatters them to think that others want to be just like them. It is easy for them to see this burgeoning leader as a future star. There is no guarantee that a clone will look or act exactly like you, but they will be pretty close.
The means and methods that you employee are the best ones you know. If they were not, you would not use them. How you get things done and what you use to make things happen is part of your leadership style. It works for you. It may not work for others. As others try to perform by mimicking your actions, it may not produce the same results.
Rather than cloning, maybe there is a better way. You want to help others get things done using their own methodology. They may be better than you at many things and you want them to capitalize on that. They do not have to be a clone.
But like the doctor in Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein, people will take parts and pieces from you and others. Kind of like building, “the Monster.” Pieces from one person, parts from another. The novel has a very tragic ending that differs from the old black and white movie with Boris Karloff (no pitch forks, torches or burning windmills in the book).
The problem with Cloning Leaders: Cloning is not very effective
Again from genome.gov, reproductive cloning is a very inefficient technique and most cloned animal embryos cannot develop into healthy individuals. For instance, Dolly was the only clone to be born live out of a total of 277 cloned embryos.
Why would I want to have an exact copy of myself? They would make the same mistakes, and there is no guarantee that they would have the same success. Every leader knows that the environment they are in and the people on the team make for success and failure. They could do everything right and it still come out wrong. Conversely, they could do everything wrong, and the team might still succeed.
Cloning does not respect others talents
I find that I do not really want someone else doing exactly what I do in every situation. Even those that might be a stand-in for me in meetings or projects. Each of us brings a mix of talent, experience and giftedness that creates the unique blend that is our leadership style. I want to capitalize on that by giving others the leeway to do it their way. The best way to promote a leader is to let them lead their way and make slight course correction when you see troubles coming. Help them be leaders, not clones.
Cloning tends to continue your failures
If someone else does those same things you do, even down to the mistakes, then they will have the same troubles you have. Better to have a leader that can take a different approach than one that always acts and reacts like you. I have seen other succeed where I have trouble making headway. I actually enjoy seeing that happen, since my ultimate goal is the make progress on a project. Letting others take the lead on portions of the project can bring new vitality to the team.
Reproduction, no Cloning
Like most living things, reproduction is best. It is a combination of differing inputs and allows for uniqueness of everyone to shine through. Your goal is to identify other people’s talents and not try to just look for reflections of your own. And your job is to let them lead in small things and in large. Your job is to identify and empower and then get out of the way.
Nature and Nurture
For many years people have discussed the juxtaposed stances of nature vs nurture. Are there natural born leaders or can you make them via training, experience and exposure to the leadership role? Is it a combination of genes or is it the environment that creates leaders? I think it is a little of both. When you lean into someone’s natural talents and create an environment for growth, then others will be able to expand their leadership style in their own way. You take the natural and nurture it for success. I have had others do that for me. Hopefully, I have done that for others.
“Leaders don't create followers; they create more leaders.” – Tom Peters
So, when you are noticing others who have leadership skills, let them use them, in their own way. When you see others with leadership talent, encourage them to take the lead, which includes you stepping back and letting them step forward.