You Can’t Fake It

By | December 16, 2021

[December 16, 2021] There’s a saying in the designer world that “you can’t fake fashion.” They are referring to the quality of design, materials, and construction of clothing and accompanying accessories.  The same is true of being a leader.  You can’t fake it.

There is no denying that some people can be fooled when distinguishing good leaders from bad.  Most folks, however, can see through a fake leader quickly.  The reason is that it is difficult to fake sincerity, commitment, and passion.  That is why I often write about having “heart” in what you do.  People will see through you and reject what you say if you don’t.

I knew a young man many years ago when I was a First Lieutenant.  He was intelligent, educated at the finest institutions, loved the military, but did not want to be an Infantry Officer.  In all its wisdom, the Army had placed him where he did not want to be.  This smart young man wanted to be in the Intelligence field since he was a kid.  The Soldiers under his supervision did not like him at all.

The problem was that his heart was not into being an Infantry Officer.  He tried to hide it, and I give him a lot of credit for trying to make a go of it.  His men were not deterred.  They figured him out the same day he arrived at our unit.  We were preparing for a large field training exercise, and everyone was working long hours getting ready.  This young man didn’t want to go, and we could all see it in his face.  He was gone from our unit the following week.

I knew that trying to fake it with these men, many of them combat veterans from the Vietnam War, would not work.  Either you were committed and loyal to them, or you were out.  These were men who had gone through hell and back.  They knew people like no one knows people.  They understood the human condition and practiced like a well-oiled machine.  They were tough; they were some of the best Soldiers we ever had in the U.S. military.  They could not be fooled.

I enjoyed my time serving as their Platoon Leader for a year.  They taught me those things that cannot be taught in the Officer Courses that I attended.  They showed me how to be successful on the battlefield – leading men into battle, taking care of Soldiers, and accomplishing any mission. I’m proud to have served with them.

By the way, the young man who left our unit eventually transferred to another unit where he was re-branched into the Intelligence field, sent to Fort Huachuca, AZ, to attend the Intelligence school where he graduated with honors.

Lesson learned … you can’t fake it.


Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” at Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “You Can’t Fake It

  1. 76 Wife

    So true Gen. Satterfield, like all of us, I’ve witnessed far too many people trying to fake their way through something or be someone they are obviously not. Sad but true. It doesn’t take long for most of them to realize we can see right through them.

  2. Dog Man

    You might think you can FAKE it, but you cannot. I can assure you people are much smarter than that. And, when I say ‘smart’ I don’t mean book smart.

  3. Wild Bill

    The greatest leaders are those that are strong, brave, and smart. That’s my observation. What is hardest to fake? Being strong, brave, and smart. That is why so many pissyant, bottom-feeding rugrats don’t make it.

  4. Scotty Bush

    Too many people trying to “fake it.” Gen. Satterfield has given us a perspective based on his own experiences and those of others like him from the US Army. It is good to hear what others see as “fake” and how they reacted to it.

  5. Armywife

    Let’s not forget it’s important that parents be good “leaders” too.

    1. Wilson Cox

      Yes, Armywife, great point. Everyone must be a leader at some point in their lives.

  6. Boy Sue

    Most people are just too darn smart (or this is an inborn trait) to be taken in by a fake leader. Those traits eventually are exposed. So don’t try to be who you are not, people will find you out eventually. Just like our President, we have discovered that there is nothing there.

    1. Army Captain

      That is why being in the US Army has made me a better man and better person. We are all too smart to realize that sometimes we must go thru hell to realize that fake leaders will get you killed.

  7. Dale Paul Fox

    Lead on Purpose:
    “People become leaders in different ways: some are elected, others are appointed, still others become leaders without ever having the title. Regardless of how you become a leader, you can’t fake leadership. Sure, there are people who do and some even get away with it for a while, but at some point, usually not too far down the road, people clue into the false intentions and the phony front and quit listening to or following the “leader” (who is not really a leader).”

    1. ZB22

      Becoming a leader requires a careful combination of confidence and humility. Remaining a leader and growing leadership capabilities require persistence and integrity.

      1. Steve Dade

        Yes, this is what Gen. Satterfield writes about all the time. Plus, tell the truth. The idea that a leader is persistent and has integrity is the very foundation of great and thus successful leadership. There is nothing more important. Lesson learned for me. And, of course, you can’t fake it (real leadership can’t be faked).

        1. DocJeff

          Correct! And this explains why so many of us are long-time fans of this website on leadership. Gen. Satterfield has been running this blog now for more than 8 years. That says something too.

  8. Cat A Miss

    Three keys to great leadership (based on ‘you can’t fake it’).
    – Integrity above all.
    – 100 percent responsibility.
    – Genuine humility.

    1. Frank Graham

      In all times, but especially in these times of a global pandemic, we need leaders to rise up and lead with integrity, responsibility, and humility, and we need those who are incapable of doing so to get out of the way.

    2. Janna Faulkner

      Here are two leadership traits you can’t fake:
      Be genuine
      Care about people

  9. American Girl

    Fake news on the left, fake news on the right, front, and back. If you listen to the fake news media, you are not getting what really happened. Gen. Satterfield has a long list of articles he has written on media “bias.” Today we call it fake news because they make it up out of whole cloth.

    1. Bryan Z. Lee

      AG, that’s how they get us. They quote “unknown” or “anonymous” sources (actually it’s their aunt in Chicago) who say what they want to hear. Journalism is beyond dead (I wish), now journalism is just another evil.

      1. Mikka Solarno

        Good one Bryan and thanks for reinforcing the fact that our media has gone over the edge. They are now just a shell of their former selves. What are they teaching these days in college for journalism majors. Does it exist at all?

    2. Erleldech

      Good point American Girl. Oh, I love your moniker and avatar.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.