mask, persona, shadow

Do You Wear One of These Scary Masks at Work?

Halloween only comes once a year, but some employees have bosses who hide behind scary masks all year long.  Which one(s) do you wear, and how might you be holding your team back when you do?

Ambitious Chameleon:  Your team sees you wearing this mask when you do and say whatever it takes to increase your status and to get what you want. This makes you appear disingenuous. As this competitive monster, you set overblown goals then take shortcuts to get there quickly, often sacrificing quality.  You want to be indispensable so appear self-promoting and emotionally disconnected from others at work. Failure is not an option for you. Behind your mask, you are charming, confidently driven, focused, ready to take on any challenge, and you usually succeed. Anyone would love to have you as a mentor.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you focus on what works instead of what’s efficient. Realize it isn’t all up to you – you have a whole team to rely upon.

Disorganized Dreamer: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you generate a kazillion ideas and send them on wild goose chases to explore every one of them. One minute you give an employee an assignment to move forward on a project involving widgets because they are the next new thing. Two days later, you re-direct the employee to ditch the widget project and focus on a completely different one.  Your team sees a monster who lacks focus and follow through. Your employees feel jerked around and unsettled.  Behind your mask, you feel enthusiasm for life!  You’re happy, charming and fun to be with a positive outlook on life. With your energy, life is never boring as you envision the possibilities.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you find what you are truly interested in. Then, fully commit to a course of action and allow them to support you in moving it forward.

Aloof Expert: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you are all theories, ideas, abstractions with little or no time for people and relationships.  You team sees you as cold and arrogant. You see your team to “intrusions” that you don’t want to be bothered with. You create distance between yourself and others as you withdraw into your own thoughts. Your team is tired of hearing how much smarter you are than they are. Your over-reliance on data causes analysis paralysis. Behind your mask, you are an original, innovative, and keen observer who takes calculated risks to create visionary inventions and ways of doing things.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you use your curiosity to engage with others and your environment while letting go of the need to fully understand something before experiencing it.

Hypercritic: Your team sees you wearing this mask when you come across as a “black and white” thinker, who is judgmental, controlling, very demanding and never satisfied. For this reason, others keep their distance from you because they don’t think they can please you. Well, you do tend to criticize everything they do. You simply feel obligated to fix everything according to your standards.  Behind this mask, you are refined, organized, modest, responsible and concerned with quality. You provide reliability and stability with your principled approach to life.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you approach them with curiosity about a situation instead of with criticism and accept “good enough” instead of perfection.

Pushy Power-Grabber: Your team sees you wearing this mask when they experience you as controlling, angry, and intimidating. More task- than people-focused, you can take a “my way of the highway” approach and are subject to angry outbursts that are over as quickly as they appeared. You can be blunt and love confrontation, which is a game to you, but you forget that others can’t withstand the trauma. Afraid of being taken advantage of, you habitually use intimidation and more power than necessary to get what you want. Behind the mask is a protective leader who is good at taking charge and getting things done and who is a daring risk-taker.

Your team will see the real “you” behind your scary mask when you pause, slow down, and learn patience.  Cultivate relationships with those around you. Realize that the unhealthy, contentious confrontations will eventually do more harm than good.

Elegant Evader: Your team sees you wearing this mask when they experience you as so conflict avoidant that you retreat from any situation where there might be the tiniest disagreement. You go to great lengths to maintain an even keel and no ruffled feathers.  By avoiding conflict, you ironically create more conflict as your team becomes frustrated with you when work stalls and issues are not resolved. Sometimes you give in to “go along, get along” without noticing the inconsistent decisions made and messages sent.  You can appear to go along with others outwardly, but inside you dig in your heels and refuse to budge. Behind the mask you are a peaceful, calm, and kind consensus builder who truly has others’ best interests at heart.

Your team will see the “you” behind your scary mask when you stop distracting yourself from yourself and take initiative to get what you think is important. Learn to live with some discomfort and assert yourself.

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it:  Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more at

How to Be a Credible Leader

Previously, I wrote about four areas for leadership focus.  In this post, I’m focusing on establishing your credibility.

Over the past century or two, the expectations of what a leader is and does has shifted and that applies to how leaders established credibility.  Used to be that a leader was credible if he was “large and in charge” as set forth in the Great Man Theory.  To establish credibility in previous centuries, an individual (usually male) needed to dynamically leave his mark on the world through personal power, charisma, intelligence, and wisdom.  From the top, down, he directed, commanded, provided answers, intimidated, kicked butt and took names, and was always deferred to by everyone else.  In short, the leader sat atop the pyramid in a hierarchical paradigm borrowed from the military.

Today, a shift has and is still occurring that is questioning the heavy reliance not only on top-down hierarchy but also the traditional tough-guy leadership traits that formerly formed the basis of a leader’s credibility.  Sure. In a crisis, expediency and taking charge can pay off.  You absolutely want a leader who can take control of the situation and go into command-and-control mode to alleviate a big threat quickly.  Yet on a day-to-day, non-crisis basis, the credible leader of the 21st century is one who enlists others to follow through competence, transparency, inspiration, and being forward-looking.

How are you reflecting these 21st century aspects of credibility?


In the past and for today’s leader, a large component of credibility comes from being competent. Competence is being qualified for the job.  It comes from knowing your stuff and being intelligent enough to ask the right questions if you don’t.  Increasingly, the competent 21st century leader is also emotionally competent, meaning he is aware of his emotions, can regulate them, and is aware of how others are feeling.

Being competent does not mean the individual is an expert in all things related to the business or of managing his emotions; rather, it means the individual is adequately knowledgeable and skilled and has a basic knowledge and ability with most things that come his way.  Competence is often an issue when someone is hired or promoted through political wrangling, nepotism, or favoritism.


People don’t like being manipulated or lied to.  That’s why leaders who are open and honest with their employees earn high marks.  Openness and honesty keeps everyone together as a unit, sharing the same experience.  It also, provides the leader an opportunity to teach employees about his thought process, including underlying assumptions.  In addition to being instructive, transparency can invite the sharing of alternate viewpoints.  The back and forth exchange of ideas that comes from such openness helps forge a stronger bond amongst the group and furthers the leader’s believability and credibility.


To be inspiring, you don’t have to be Martin Luther King, Jr.  It does, however, mean that you can help others see that they are part of something bigger and can accomplish great things in concert with others.  This is about helping employees see the “big picture” and their place in helping the grand plan come to fruition.  Neurologically, by way of mirror neurons, followers’ brains light up in many different areas when they interact with a leader who can enthusiastically connect them with the big picture.  This increases the chance that employees will be open to new ideas and new emotions as they scan the business environment for options to attain a corporate goal or vision.  And that is exactly what a leader wants to inspire employees to do.


Finally, today’s leader must have the ability to scan for future trends, opportunities, and threats.  The marketplace changes so quickly that leaders must have an eye on what is coming down the pike – good, bad, different and indifferent.  This gives the organization advanced notice allowing it to adapt and stay relevant and in business. The leader who is uncomfortable with change or unaware of trends will react slowly if at all, failing to catch the next wave that will keep the business afloat.  Because followers rely on the continuation of the organization, the credible leader is in tune with what’s happening now as well as with what is likely coming in the future to ensure the longevity of the organization.

What do you need to do differently to be  credible enough to lead?

WANT TO USE THIS IN YOUR NEWSLETTER, BLOG OR WEBSITE? You can, as long as you include this information with it: Beth Strathman works with executives and senior leaders to create team environments that optimize ownership, accountability, learning, and results. Learn more: