You Don’t Have to Fake it to Be a Successful Leader


Actionable advice for small business owners who want to lead authentically through good times and bad, encouraging them not only to survive but thrive with integrity.

Make It, Don't Fake It

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Make it don’t Fake It: Leading with Authenticity for Real Business Success” is a new book by Sabrina Horn. 

In short, “This book is about ethics, passion, confidence, pride, resilience commitment and survival. It’s about doing things the right way. It’s about becoming a leader, building a company culture and a brand based on strong core values, managing both growth and decline dealing with loneliness and with losing. Facing a plethora of crises, and profitably selling your business — It’s about doing all this while staying grounded in reality, integrity and grace.” 

If you’re a small business owner who wants to reach success without sacrificing their integrity, then read on. 

Who is Sabrina Horn?

With just $500 and five years of experience, Sabrina Horn founded her PR firm, Horn Group. She’s been committed to focusing on the importance of authenticity in all aspects of business since her days as one of the few female CEOs in Silicon Valley.

Over several decades of being both a CEO and an advisor to clients, she learned that leadership is about making the right decision at the right time — often based on less-than-a-desirable reality.

Look for her articles in The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, Forbes nad

A Spectrum of Lies

In just under 200 pages, Sabrina Horn provides a clear outline for where integrity ends and fakery begins. In short, there isn’t a lot of gray in Horn’s world.

It all starts with setting context around the spectrum of “faking it”. From the useful “Acting as if” as introduced by the psychologist, Adler to the downright criminal end of the spectrum which includes fabrication, deception and gaslighting. 

Honestly, I think the first chapter is the best chapter in the book.  Horn goes through a series of lies you often come across in order of severity.  Here are just a few; 

  • Little white lies: These are harmless because their intention is to avoid hurt feelings. But, in a business context, it can lead to trouble. When the chef comes to your table and asks for your feedback on a disappointing dish — if you lie to save their feelings, you’re ultimately hurting their business. 
  • Necessary lies: People lie to protect their privacy, to avoid a difficult truth that might hurt the eventual outcome or if they are in physical danger. 

That’s it, people.  This is where acceptable lying ends.  Remember when I said Horn had no “gray area”?  This is what I meant.  Everything after this point is like moving through the seven levels of lie hell. 

  • Winging it: Now, this one surprised me a bit because — well.  Who isn’t guilty of winging it from time to time. 
  • Exaggeration: This is another one that’s rather common.  Everything from fudging the results on your resume to inflating a product’s capabilities.
  • Hype and Buzz: Yikes! We marketers are guilty as charged in this area. Sales are emotional and building energy and urgency around a product or service can backfire.

Then there are the lies we sort of tell ourselves — 

  • Build it and They Will Come: This is when you take a giant risk based on little more than guts.
  • Hot Seat Lies: This is another “entrepreneurial favorite”. When a client asks if you can do something — you say “yes” and grab the skills and people later. Yes — it’s a sort of lie — but hey, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did this in spades and lots of small businesses do this successfully.  So this is one to noodle on.
  • Overconfident lies: You know this one — “We are the premier provider of [insert your product or service here]. This goes right along with, we are the best, biggest, brightest, only, etc,
  • Ostrich lies: These are lies we tell ourselves when we ignore or sweep something under the rug.

This next category of lies goes beyond lying to yourself. These are lies we can tell ourselves and others that can really come back to bite.

  • Minimization lies: Unlike exaggeration, these are the lies that you minimize by dodging blame.
  • Lies of Omission: Also known as selective truth-telling. If you’ve spent any length of time in corporate or politics, you have a lot of experience with this one. 
  • Downright Deception: These are the most vicious of lies. Hornes gives examples of Bernie Madoff and Elizabeth Holmes — business leaders who really weren’t

But Wait — Is There More?

I loved the first chapter so much that I wanted more! Instead, the book moves forward with more of Horne’s experiences, history, and client stories.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I was just excited to get to the lessons ahead with the same type of directness as in the first chapter.

So here’s a short summary of the lessons inside:

  • You don’t always have to be strong and fearless. Dealing with crises such as layoffs, tragedy, and disruption sometimes means that “making it” is good enough.
  • The stories you tell yourself or your customers can (and often will) come back to hurt you. Get resilient and become a rigorous truth-teller. 
  • Accept and embrace imposter syndrome – it only means that you’re human. 
  • Seek out confidence and clarity so that you can make sound business decisions, even when there are no right answers.

Read Make it Don’t Fake It

You might be thinking to yourself that this book is more about the psychology of business than it is about actual tactics. But as I read, I found myself nodding along with many of her lessons. “Make It Don’t Fake It” really does provide valuable insight on how a strong awareness and understanding of one’s own personality can help in all areas. From crisis management to decision making- we are faced with difficult decisions every day that have far-reaching consequences for our businesses–and our lives. Sabrina Horne delivers much-needed clarity in what seems like an overwhelming space.

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Ivana Taylor Ivana Taylor is the Book Editor for Small Business Trends. She is responsible for directing the site’s book review program and manages the team of professional book reviewers. She also spearheads the annual Small Business Book Awards. Ivana publishes DIYMarketers, where she shares daily do-it-yourself marketing tips, and is co-author of "Excel for Marketing Managers."