A long time ago, in a place not so far away, I was sitting in the living room of my college apartment (that I shared with at least three fraternity brothers) playing guitar and singing a Neil Young song. I was a tenor back then (or almost so) and I was affecting the tone and timbre of Neil himself. Or, so I thought.
One of my roomies, Skip, is one of the kindest people I've ever known, so you have to know that when he gave me feedback it was in the most gentle and compassionate way possible. In essence, though, what I heard was "you should sing in your own voice. We already have one Neil Young, and he does himself the best..."
The full impact didn't hit me until years later. The importance of finding your authentic voice is a part of finding your leadership style and therefore your effectiveness. You could (and I have) imitate other leaders in hops of harvesting their success. It's no good. We each must be who we each must be. When we find that -- when we find our true voice -- the rest is a matter of steady development and growth.
That's why I like the quote from Hugh Macleod (who I remember from drawing cartoons on the back of business cards -- now there's a distinctive voice!) who said "Part of being a Master is learning how to sing in nobody else's voice but your own."
Even if it takes a while. Even if it takes a lifetime. And as every talented singer knows -- even when you find it, you've got to practice tirelessly and improve.
I'm going to practice today. How about you?
-- doug smith