Want to be a better leader? Take off the mask. | Peter Fuda | Big Think


So one of the greatest challenges for us as
leaders, particularly in a time of great change and disruption where we need even stronger
levels of connection and commitment with and for our people is the wearing of a mask, the
idea that we need to put on some kind of pretense as a leader to assume we figured it all out. And I see leaders wear two kinds of masks. There’s the mask of the imposter, the mast
of the phantom. The Phantom of the Opera. In Phantom of the Opera I know I’m wearing
a mask, you know I’m wearing a mask. I know that you know I’m wearing a mask. The one thing we cannot talk about in this
team is the fact that I’m wearing a mask, the mask of the imposter often called imposter
syndrome. There’s second mask which is what we might
call the mask of the persona. A bit more like Jim Carey’s character in
the movie The Mask. He picks up the mask of Loki, an ancient mystical
god. It takes over him and he becomes a superhero
character called The Mask in order to save the day and win the girl. And that’s the kind of mask where we’re
a warm caring human being at home and then we come to work and we say I’ve got to kick
ass and take names because we work in a tough industry. And that creates enormous internal conflict. How this ends up manifesting itself, particularly
at very senior leadership levels – CEO, chairman, board level – is that we try and
project an image of perfection to the world. In fact, we tend to wear perfectionism as
a badge of honor. And the important thing to understand is the
perfectionism is about looking good, not doing good. It’s driven my a fear of failure and a security
orientation. And the analogy I often use is if you think
about a child when it first starts to walk. It crawls, it face plants, it crawls, it face
plants, it crawls, hits its head on the table, falls of the couch over and over and over
and over and over again. At no point in that journey do we as adults
say look junior, this walking thing may not be for you. You should stick with the crawling. And yet as senior executives we do this all
the time. If we can’t master something instantly we
say no, I’m not doing that. I will look stupid. We try and project an image of perfection. It creates a great disconnect from not just
our people but from ourselves and from the best parts of ourselves. Rather than embracing our imperfections which
are the things that make us interesting and human. By the way, your people know you’re imperfect
anyway so when you embrace your imperfections they know you’re honest as well. And so the simple distinction for people who
want to make this shift is rather than try and be perfect or project perfection, instead
be like the child, like you were as a kid yourself and try and perfect the craft. That’s an achievement motivation. This is a security motivation. This is about self- protection. This is about learning and growth and contribution. And the most effective leaders are those who
rather than try and project perfection, who instead try and perfect the craft. They create an organization of people who
are prepared to say they don’t know. Who are prepared to ask for help. Who are prepared to learn and grow over time. And, of course, they are the organizations
that ultimately outperform all others.


42 Responses

  1. Mrs AJ

    January 19, 2020 10:34 am

    Awesome explanation about the wearing of masks. It helps the rest of us remember that these muppets are human to

  2. wikichris

    January 19, 2020 11:07 am

    I've had quite a few years of work experience now and the main issue I see repeatedly that frustrates employees and damages companies is when another team is clearly not doing what they are supposed to but your own boss refuses to speak to their boss because they don't want to rock the boat. (This is of course after trying yourself – but no team ever listens to someone inferior to their boss from another team)

  3. ashwater skydust

    January 19, 2020 2:34 pm

    Youtube recommends: 'Want to be a better leader? Take the mask off'

    Youtube also recommends: 'The worst advice you can give an autistic person'

    Forgive me if it seems like these paradoxical arguments don't seem designed to help people.

    throwing out gaslighting like that is the lamest form of shade

  4. Aria

    January 19, 2020 3:51 pm

    One flaw with the analogy of ”you don’t tell a baby that you should give up on learning to walk” is that it fits the baby by our common standards to not be able walk at that age. If you see an adult learning to walk for the first time it’s more acceptable in our society to view him as less capable.

    Sometimes going into the public and revealing your deepest vulnerabilities can just be too overwhelming for the average human mind.

  5. Ray Munger

    January 19, 2020 4:09 pm

    I've been a grown ass man for a long time now; and you know what; I don't need any leader; never did. Neither do you! In reality before concepts, it didn't exist and doesn't need to. Leadership is obsolete! It creates a status quo, and that's wrong!

  6. LordKellthe1st

    January 20, 2020 2:17 pm

    Well, that excludes a large % of 'business leaders'. About 1/3 has psychopathy and or Narcissistic tendencies if not more. And try rubbing off all the orange paint, eh Donald…


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