Authentic Leaders: Putting Our Masks Away

the Joker Mask

If your house is anything like mine, tucked away somewhere in the attic or the basement is a Halloween box.

This week, you are probably repacking the spooky decorations, scary costumes, masks and accessories; storing them away with another year’s trick-or-treat memories.

Leadership Trick-or-Treat

Some of us, though, keep our masks on all year-long.  We hide our real selves from the people around us.  We think that if people really knew us, they might not think that we deserve the positions of leadership we have.  Our masks are not made of latex or plastic, but of insecurity, fear, and mistrust.

The Mask of Insecurity

People who are insecure worry they might not be “good enough” to face challenges that come up in everyday life.

They might feel helpless to solve problems or face conflict.  Insecure people often suffer from low self-esteem or lack self-confidence.These feelings run counter to the self-assurance needed to be a strong leader.

Being confident in oneself supports an environment where the opinions of others are welcomed, rather than being viewed as a threat. offers some great tips to help identify and overcome insecurity.

If you are someone you know wears the mask of insecurity, read the article for some helpful hints to bravely put that mask away for good.

The Mask of Fear

Often times, fear can keep us from being fully open to the people around us.  We may fear specific tasks, such as giving feedback or dealing with conflict.We might fear making the wrong decision or losing our influence. Some people might fear making a mistake while trying to make a difference in a new leadership role.

In his article, The Leader’s Journey From Fear to Self-Confidence, Arthur Petty reminds us that removing the mask of fear is an important step in growth and succeeding as leaders.

Followers don’t expect us to be perfect, but they do expect us to face our fears, learn, and improve.

The Mask of Mistrust

We’ve all heard that great leaders inspire trust. However, trust is a two-way street. The leader must also demonstrate trust in the people she is surrounded by. We must trust their motivations, their abilities, and their loyalties.

A leader’s trust in her followers motivates them communicate openly, to perform at peak levels, even going above and beyond in times of crisis.

If, however, a leader hides behind the mask of distrust, then he creates an environment based on fear and survivorship, not mutual support and success.

Putting the Masks Away

If leaders put their masks away and dwell in authenticity, their leadership and followership relationships will be strengthened.  In his article Authentic Leadership, Kevin Cashman describes these five touchstones of authenticity:

Know Yourself Authentically

Instead of focusing on finding the right partner, friend or co-worker, focus on being the right one.

Listen Authentically

Authentic listening opens the platform for true synergy and team effectiveness

Express Authentically

Share your true voice in words and actions

Appreciate Authentically

Appreciation energizes people and makes people want to exceed their goals and perceived limits

Serve Authentically

When we move from control to service, we acknowledge that we’re not the sole origin of achievement

Even with the most expensive Halloween costumes, the masks are never as good as the real thing.  Your team would much rather know the authentic you than the insecurity, fear, and mistrust you might be hiding behind.  You and your team will benefit once those masks are put away for good.


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Eleanor Biddulph
Eleanor Biddulph
 is the EVP of Client Services at Progressive Medical, Inc.
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3 responses to “Authentic Leaders: Putting Our Masks Away

  1. I have read the article, when it hit me. No matter what – we need our masks! We can’t necessarily just dismiss the need. However we can encourage to try on a different mask. In time we can adopt the mask we choose, one that actually benefit us, in our relationships, work place, academia etc. Once we learn our social skills, we learn how to put on our social masks, so the change can occur by taking baby step. So I salute masks, just choose them wisely, just like a new Extreme Makeover, get use to it, try it “wear it”, and then decide maybe this “new mask”, is not that bad after all. We can easily decide to day to put on our “courage” mask – for this blind-date , or put on the ” I’m very professional” mask for this upcoming important job interview. How about that?!


  2. “Revital” – thank you for taking the time to read and consider the post. You bring up an interesting alternative; instead of complete authenticity, using masks to essentially “try out” a different way of being. It could be a way to transitionally face our fears, anger, mistrust, etc. The cautionary tale would be to not use the new mask as a new way of hiding, rather than a path to a new authentic self. Then again, if courage is needed, for example, why not seek support from those around you? Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’ve certainly made me think!


  3. We all wear masks as leaders. We have to play different roles and we have to connect with different people. Some times the masks feel uncomfortable as we operate outside our comfort zone in what we sincerely believe is the best for the team or organisation. Where I agree with the comments is the need to have belief and be authentic in our approach. Yes we need to connect with different people and only by valuing that difference authentically will that connection be of value. Only then will we truely listen. Some times we have to fake it until we can make it. The mark of a leader is someone who is prepared to make that journey. To put on the mask for the benefit of others not be stuck in their own authentic, but narrow, self indulgent comfort zone.


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