In a presentation I did about three years ago, I talked to the group about removing the mask. We all wear masks and perhaps we think that sometimes a mask is necessary, but every time we don a mask, we betray a part of who we REALLY are.
Almost all the companies I consult with have people problems. They experience poor relationships, poor communications and poor team collaboration. There is a lot of conflict, low morale, silo thinking, a lack of trust and empowerment, lack of ownership and accountability, no initiative, very little creativity and innovation, leaders who don’t walk their talk etc.
To solve these challenges some of the solutions include: training, “right” people selection, setting clear milestones, using the right key performance indicators, enhancing leadership skills, improving communication skills including how to have crucial and difficult conversations, incentives and rewards, and on and on.
With all these strategies in place – PEOPLE PROBLEMS PERSIST!
As a leader, there is an inner drive to SOLVE PROBLEMS so it’s quite natural to focus on:
- What others NEED to do
- What mistakes other people are making
- What negative qualities others may have that need to be snuffed out
What if leaders started with looking at themselves first?
Laurie Gerber, President of Handel Group Life Coaching says “When I talk to leaders, I find out that a lot of them struggle with feeling like frauds.” With all the work you do, and all the pressures brought to bear on your shoulders daily – do you sometimes find yourself feeling like a fraud?
In his book ‘Healing Your Life’, Paul Ferrini describes how wearing a mask helps us. “Your mask or persona helps you gain social approval. It helps you to appear to be NORMAL and well-adjusted, even if you aren’t. It hides your pain and shows people an edited version of you.”
There is one strategy that is going to change EVERYTHING and that is for you to drop your mask, open your heart, get in touch with your feelings and begin to work through them towards better understanding yourself. This is not easy but sooner or later you are not going to be able to keep WHO you REALLY are and WHAT you’re FEELING from seeping through. The more self-aware you become the more connected you will be to yourself. You will begin to learn to love ALL parts of yourself, warts and all and be more open to healing and growth.
McCall and Bennis state “Effective leaders are self-aware, reflecting the ultimate form of self-confidence that makes it possible to welcome negative feedback and criticism. Knowing one’s weaknesses is power, because then something can be done about them; the real danger lies in what one doesn’t know. Seeking out feedback, openness to criticism, and learning from mistakes all distinguish leaders considered to be high potential from those considered solid performers. Lack of awareness, whether through neglect of arrogance, is a major contributor to derailment.
Awareness begins with three basic components, 1) knowing your strengths, 2) knowing your weaknesses, and recognizing undeveloped areas that need bolstering. “Knowing” is not just a general awareness but rather a deep understanding of these areas. “
Currently there are well over 15,000 published articles and books on the topic of leadership. Most focus on skills, characteristics and behaviours of successful and effective leaders. There are fewer resources addressing removing the mask and healing ourselves.
Laurie Gerber shares this story that touches on the areas addressed today:
I know a great leader who, despite tons of success as an internationally known fitness instructor, still felt like she didn’t really know what she was doing. She opened up and began talking about it in front of her classes and realized that she had been thinking that her unique version of exercise was somehow “less than” other more established brands. However, in revealing that, and in rethinking it, she realized that it was in fact even more special because it was different. But then there was this other compounding issue of updating her certifications, which she also admitted needing to do. Clearing that up, she experienced a whole new level of success and confidence. She stopped hiding her internal dialogue (which we all know is so often wrong) and started telling the truth about her trials and triumphs as part of each class she led. As she made transparency her policy, she was forced to deal head-on with anything that was troubling her and was loved through her process by her students. The public nature of this type of leadership caused her to correct things in her life and to be an inspiration in ways she had only dreamed of doing “on her own” or with just a therapist. What a gift to have “a public.” What an inspiration she was to her public.”
To begin to stop self-betrayal is to start telling the truth about where you are right now. If you are stuck in your leadership, ask yourself the following:
- Are you being a hypocrite on some level?
- Is it possible that there could be other possibilities regarding an incident that happened to you that clouds your view of what is possible?
- Are you staying quiet about something you need to speak up about?
When you start talking about it to others (truthfully), you are forced to deal with it yet you emerge as a more respected and trusted leader, someone who people willingly want to follow.