Don’t fake it, just make it - my journey into leadership

Posted by Angela Waddell

We’ve all heard the term ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, right? Well if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about leadership in the workplace, it’s that there’s a bit more to it than that.

In my first leadership role I found myself in a situation where I was losing staff, productivity was not where it should have been and I simply wasn’t earning the respect of my peers.

I’ve now been there and done that and over the years I have had the opportunity to reflect on why some of this was happening.

In a nutshell, my ideas of leadership were detached from reality.  

Back then I didn’t really have an idea of what I was doing. By nature, I can be bossy – just ask my sisters – and I can be direct to the point of being blunt.

Operating this way was not leadership or management, so I had to learn quickly the hard way.

Something I did have going for me, however, was the ability to listen. I am open to and take on all types of feedback and then use that to strive to be better.  Therefore, since my early leadership days, I have grown as a manager and leader and I have come a long way!

These are some of the things I’ve learned along the journey.

Be open

In my role, I interview many people looking for a new job. A common reason for this is when they feel they can’t learn any more or grow further in their current role.  

I am of the belief that we can always learn more, no matter what role or business you’re in. There’s always something more to learn or a new skill to adopt, but it comes down to having the desire and willingness to do that.  

So, be open to the idea that if you want to learn, you can. In a business you’re surrounded by smart people – at all levels of seniority –  so start by being open and speaking to them. The greatest knowledge can come from those around you.

Always ask why

People act and behave the way they do for a reason, whether it’s conscious or subconscious.  

Before getting offended or judging someone by their actions, ask yourself, why did they behave like that? Very rarely do people purposefully seek to hurt or offend someone else, so first assume good will and then try to understand their perspective.  

Seek and give feedback

At Sprout, we have a thing. After every meeting we ask each other, what did we do well, and what would we do differently next time?  No matter what your role is, seek feedback. It’s important for your own self-awareness and professional development, but also for benefit of your peers.  

Giving feedback is often feared more by people than receiving it. However, if it’s delivered with care and in a constructive and empathetic way, people are usually okay with receiving it and will be grateful.

If you can do this on a regular basis, you’ll find the process of giving and receiving feedback becomes easier too.

Be authentically you

When I first took on a manager role, I remember trying to be what I thought a manager should be – whatever that was. The feedback I got was that I was trying too hard and I wasn’t coming across as genuine.  

This is something I am still working on today, but I am getting more and more comfortable with – just being myself and not trying to be someone or something else.  

It’s also important not to aim for perfection. It’s boring, unrealistic and people don’t connect to it because everyone has a different idea of what perfection is.

Instead, be vulnerable and don’t be afraid of making mistakes because you will learn from them – this blog post is proof of that!

Lead from behind

This was an area where I learnt quickly that my bossy tendencies were not going to work.  Being bossy can sometimes get a task done, but you’ll often find it won’t be done well.

A true leader will inspire people to deliver their best work rather than simply tell people to do their job – there’s a subtle, but very important difference.  This means getting behind their team and encouraging, motivating and challenging them.

Leadership is a privilege

Some of these learnings were difficult for me to overcome, but now I have, I realise I have a passion to share my journey with others.

An area of Sprout that I am super passionate about is our Leadership Coaching that we provide to both aspiring and current leaders within organisations we work with.  

If you are interested in sharing your leadership stories or to understand more about Sprout Leadership Coaching then you can connect with me on

I promise I won’t be too bossy!



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