I have bought my share of books on how to become a good leader. Almost certainly they contained nuggets of wisdom; but by necessity, those books contained cookie-cutter approaches because they are designed to be generally applicable.

In addition, I grew up as a leader looking for role models (and buying books by and about them). For a while I believed that my best path to success as a leader was to emulate my role models.

Thus, my default setting when equipping leaders was to ask them to do what I was doing, find a model or a role model to emulate; sometimes I was that role model, sharing my experiences with others in order to replicate myself in them.

Shame on me! I now realize that we lead best when we lead from our own personal identity, i.e., our leadership identity. Our leadership identity does not represent the entirety of who we are [our personal identity] but it is shaped by who we are.

As leaders we should refrain from trying to reproduce ourselves in others and instead help leaders find their own leadership identity. One way to do so is by coaching them to recognize the parts of their personal identity they rely on to lead. For me, that includes humor, but for others humor is something they would never rely on to lead others.

If we are going to coach leaders in this way, we should first get to know leaders by their personal identity. Who are they and what destiny have they set for themselves? Find out and help coach her into the fullness of her leadership identity.

We should develop a leader’s strengths not transfer our own strengths to him. What is he good at that may need further refining? Even if you have a great sense of humor, it won’t help him to build camaraderie through the use of humor if his strength is empathy.

We should help leaders develop their own core values and a set of guiding principles they claim as their own. They help leaders develop a set of non-negotiable behaviors in ambiguous and challenging situations.

We should also challenge leaders to embrace the more difficult aspects of leadership. For example, helping leaders to understand that we become even more powerful when we take responsibility for our actions and we accept accountability for the results we produce (rather than make excuses, blame someone else or become defensive).

In short, we can best equip leaders by helping them to be the best version of themselves.