Cloning the CEO

Let’s examine the most effective way to multiply Authentic Leaders.

In many years of interviewing and writing about top leaders and performers we are left with one nagging thought: Wouldn’t it be great if we could wave a magic wand like Harry Potter and clone some of these outstanding leaders? If we could clone a specific exceptional authentic leader imagine the impact on an organisation or our country; for that matter even on the world! 

In the drive to boost the quality of authentic leadership the reality is that we cannot and should not try to clone great leaders. We may agree on the physical unfeasibility of trying to clone people (except in movies, comics, videos and books!), but the real question is: Why should we not try to clone great leaders? 

Bear in mind that the object of this short article is to examine the most effective way to generate authentic leaders. In reference to the statement that we should not try to clone leaders, the following:

  • We all admire and seek to emulate great leadership attributes of great souls such as Nelson Mandela and many others. We should continuously nourish our knowledge and learn from others. Nobody is knocking the practice of learning from others. In fact, NOT learning from others is simply stupid and unacceptable as leaders.
  • But, and this is the big BUT, each person is unique and each of us has unique drivers and talents. The only way for a person to evolve into an authentic leader is to become true to themselves. We simply cannot become clones to somebody else, and if we do try we will seriously limit our own individual unique potential. Authentic confidence – the core driving force of any great leader – is based on our insight into who and what we are. We use the following rule or universal law to help clarify this imperative principle. We call it the Law of Motivational Source: ‘What matters most is what I think, feel and believe about Me’.

Field study    

A remarkable lesson was learnt by us in a yearlong one-on-one leadership training exercise with a specific management group. The team is led by a passionate experienced manager. On face value it seemed they didn’t really need leadership development. Yet, we found that the more each individual became aware of their own unique drivers and talents, the more they became accountable and confident and the more the team spirit grew. And this was not a process of psychometric tests but a process that encourages leaders to intuitively identify their deepest “Inner I”. In a seemingly odd way, the more the individuals grew in self-understanding of their inner “I”, the more they became authentically confident and the more they were motivated to help others in their teams to be true to their own self. The team were not clones of their passionate and fine leader, but they definitely became more enabled to clone his passion and loyalty to universal principles of leadership success and each other, but each in his or her own unique way.

  • It is commonly stated that there is no easy or cheap way to train up people to become authentic and motivated leaders. However, we believe this is not completely true, even though a 2014 report indicated approximately $24.5 billion annually is spent on leadership development, in the US alone. Our belief and experience is, the more we focus on a confidence program that facilitates intuitive self-discovery, the more our employees will evolve into confident and authentic leaders. Ultimately this approach is probably a much cheaper and certainly a much more effective way to lift the competence level of management teams at all levels.
  • There will always be a need to improve the functional and even universal leadership skills of leaders at all levels. We may call this need leadership fitness – because becoming fit and remaining fit are two different things. In much the same manner that we need to seek out physical health and fitness, so also do we need to invest in personal and organisational leadership fitness. 

However, once again we have a big BUT. A believable investment in helping all leaders discover and embrace their true self – what we call the “Inner I” – results in other functional and leadership training becoming more effective. Leaders start placing their confidence in something inside (my true, authentic and best self) rather than outside (performance and external skills). A truly confident person acquiring new skills is much more productive than an unconfident person on the same journey. 

The truth is also that as the personal accountability level of leaders at all levels is boosted, so the need for additional training may fall away or become simpler and more functionally effective. We really believe from practical experience that a focus on building personal authentic confidence in self-understanding – at a deep and intuitive level – is probably a far less expensive way to go in organisational leadership development programs.

Summary statement 

To all CEOs, if you want to clone your passion and sense of accountability to the rest of your organisation, we suggest you seriously consider a program to help your leaders at all levels become and remain acutely aware of who they really are.

Louis Groenewald – Leadership Platform




Call: +27 (0)12 653 3022

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Leadership Platform is a specialist leadership development consultancy, focusing on creating measurable impact to the bottom line through the enhancement of leadership understanding and engagement.


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