Don't Mask Your True Identity

At the end of October, the streets of America are flooded with superheroes and villains, cartoon characters and famous movie stars. I am writing of course about Halloween, a time when children (and adults) become someone or something different for the night.

While pretending to be someone or something that you are not on Halloween is tremendous fun, hiding your authentic self as a leader is a sure fire path to creating a dysfunctional organization.

A leader who hides their true identity creates a feeling of unease and trepidation in their team. Much in the same way you don’t know what type of costumed children await you on the other side of the door after it rings, those you lead will be left wondering which person or personality is showing up at the office that day and how they should deal with them.

This is not to say that your leadership style and techniques don’t change based on the situation you are facing. In fact, the highly effective leader knows when to change their style to one that is most appropriate for the task at hand, as well as use different techniques of influence to help the team succeed. It is important for the leader to know their true selves, their own strengths, and weaknesses because authenticity creates trust which is key to any group’s success.

There are many tools in the marketplace that can help you discover your true leadership self. If you are looking to get a fresh perspective on your leadership identity begin by asking your team these three reflective questions:

  1. How do you think I as the leader want to be treated?
  2. How do you (the members of the team) want to be treated?
  3. How should we (our team) deal with each other when there is conflict or disagreement?

While the stock answer will undoubtedly be “with respect”, probe further. What does that look like? Is it making sure deadlines are met and commitments kept or is it the manner in which dialogue occurs? Each team and group will have different definitions and different actions… and that’s completely fine.

If done with rigor, this exercise will not only allow you to get a better picture of your authentic self, it will decrease the unease and concern amongst your team about which leader is showing up at the door today.

The trust you build will inevitably lead to a more productive and higher achieving team.

Joe Carmen is the Director of Client Relations for Leadership Development at Quinnipiac Corporate Training.

He draws from three decades of practical, real-world leadership experience at West Point and in the US Army, as well as various engineering, operations, sales and leadership roles within Fortune 50 corporations and national award-winning schools.

In these various roles, he has developed unique processes for helping organizations succeed by turning management and leadership ideas into action.