“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”


I recently had a young athlete (let’s call him Sam) ask me how he could be a leader. Sam said that he had no experience and definitely could not be as energetic or charismatic as some of the other players. I shared a simple example from a movie that I knew Sam had seen before.

If you have seen the movie Rudy, you know the story of Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, who had dreams of playing football at the University of Notre Dame despite everyone telling him he was way too small to play. But he was determined to overcome the odds and fulfill his dream of playing college football.

I won’t ruin the ending for you, because it is a movie that you definitely need to watch. What I will tell you is what I told Sam… that Rudy led his life by being himself.

Leadership is hard enough without having to worry about trying to be someone you are not.

I told Sam what he had heard a bunch of times… to be himself. However, I could tell that Sam didn’t know what to do with that overly simplistic advice. So, we took a deeper dive by discussing some specific X’s and O’s that would help him develop the skills to be an authentic leader.

I told Sam that when you are true to yourself you are demonstrating integrity, which in turn builds trust. If you want to be yourself and be successful you need to do what Rudy did and what effective leaders practice every day. Specifically, you should:

  • Do what’s right, especially in difficult situations
  • Treat people with respect at all times
  • Keep your promises
  • Take ownership for your mistakes
  • Give others their due credit
  • Display a sense of confidence without being arrogant

I told Sam that if you can truly ‘be you’ in a positive way, people will trust you and your reputation as an leader will increase. Even if it seems difficult, leadership is about stepping up while being authentic. I shared a popular quote that hit home for Sam…

“To be outstanding, you need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Sam felt more confident in his ability to start with the small things. He is making an effort to be real in his conversations and interaction with his teammates. Just the fact that he was willing to ask a simple, yet difficult question showed me that he was open to growing his leadership skills each day.

Each of us can take actions to be an authentic leader every day. Although these actions may sometimes make us uncomfortable, they are important. That said, we need to lead in ways that are true to who we really are.

Don’t waste time trying to be somebody you are not. Take the lead from Rudy and follow your dreams by being the best version of you! In the words of Oscar Wilde,

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”

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