This month while I’ve been giving my eSeminar to the amazing and brave people intent on developing their own Authentic Leadership Style, I’ve been exploring deep and powerful dimensions of authenticity and sharing them on the blog. One of the elephants in the room when we talk about authenticity is emotional discomfort and even fear. We assume that being authentic – and taking off our “corporate mask” – to allow our authentic self to shine at the office means revealing weaknesses about ourselves that can undermine our career and success.
Of course we’re all capable of undermining ourselves, but honestly the only times I see this happen as a result of taking off the corporate mask is when I (or others I know well) have gotten our authentic selves so out of sync with our masked selves that seeing the two “in the same room” (so to speak) is a shock. And when this happens, the dramatic gap is already undermining our success. It’s just that because we have our mask on, we usually don’t see it (though others usually do).
In my experience, taking off the corporate mask can only strengthen you.
Why Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong
The problem, of course, is that it’s a scary thing to imagine taking off our masks because we think they’re there to protect us, to keep us from becoming vulnerable. I’m here to tell you that you aren’t nearly as vulnerable as you think you are and that, in fact, when you tap into your authenticity, that vulnerability absolutely becomes a strength as well as a connection point with others that can pay off tangibly in your career. And this lesson is just as meaningful in the business world as it is in our personal lives.
Kristi Hedges, in her book The Power of Presence,** tells a great story about a CEO who was struggling because he wasn’t gaining the trust of the Board of Directors. When she interviewed the board, it turned out that they didn’t trust him because they couldn’t figure out who he was; he was “too perfect” and inauthentic. Despite the fact that many board members didn’t trust him, he was still a competent CEO, just not a good one.
You take your authentic self to work every day of your career, under your corporate mask, and you’ve been doing this your entire professional life. Guess what? Your authentic self is just as good at your job as you are, it’s just more human and therefor more powerful. Your authentic self is not vulnerable and weak, it’s strong and powerful – and capable of human connections and insights you can’t dream of until you take off the mask to find out.
When you learn to leave your mask off, the things you used to think of as vulnerabilities actually become strengths as you learn how to use them effectively. Give it a try and see what happens.
How Do You Do This?
I’ve been discovering this lesson for years, actually, and many of the tricks I’ve learned to establish work-life balance have been peeling the layers off the onion of my authentic self, laying various masks aside as I find their protection less necessary and effective. I’ve found the secret to navigating this journey in language – both the verbal language we use with others and the inner dialog we use with ourselves. While I used to think it would take me years of therapy to overcome my “vulnerabilities” I’ve learned it’s not really that hard at all and that once you start using the clues hiding in plain sight in your words to unpeel your masks, they start coming off faster! I’ve finally documented this “language trick” and make it available in the eSeminar. Check it out below if you’re interested.