What’s Behind the Mask?

The mask of invincibility says “I can do anything you throw at me”. The mask of invincibility refuses to acknowledge weakness or error.

Confidence on the other hand, recognizes knowledge, skills and talent. Confidence also recognizes and acknowledges uncertainty, mistakes and vulnerability.

All too often, leaders, especially new or emerging leaders, believe they need to appear invincible in order to inspire trust and confidence.

Four common errors are:

  1. Instead of asking for advice, they hunker down and plow through new learning or challenges on their own. Saying “I don’t know.  Can you help me understand that?” creates connections.  Honesty inspires inspire trust and confidence.  Pretending to know closes opportunities to connect with team members and brings into question honesty.
  2. Other leaders don’t like to share the missteps and gaffes they made on the journey to their present position.  Demonstrating success through trial and error, by getting back up again after failure, is powerful.  Saying “I understand. I once did the same thing” shows compassion and common ground.  That builds confidence and trust much more quickly than a mask of invincibility.
  3. Some leaders feel their position means they cannot let their team see the silly, perhaps slightly goofy side they show their friends and family. Some leaders, sadly, lose that silly, perhaps slightly goofy side, when the mantle of responsibility is dropped on their shoulders.  The ability to laugh, to have fun and take care of business creates connections, which in turn builds relationships, that lead to feelings of confidence and trust.
  4. And last but not least, some leaders feel they have to demonstrate a serious work ethic so that their team members know they also need to work hard.  I’m a firm believer in “practice what you preach” , but when leaders get so caught up doing all the important work they have to do and don’t take time to get to know the important people on the other side of the office door, they once again lose the opportunity to create the connections necessary to inspire feelings of trust and confidence.

Early on in my career, I had a manager who wore Mickey Mouse ties, told some really bad jokes and regularly left his office to walk through the building and talk to the people on his team.  This ability to show his human side did not take away from his ability to lead the team. In fact, it did the direct opposite.  It created a sense of “we’re in this together” and that is never a bad thing.

What are your thoughts on this?


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