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Which CEO Costume Do You Wear?

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Which CEO Costume Do You Wear?

For some of us, every day is like Halloween.

We get up in the morning, put on our CEO costume, and get started.

Some of us get our costume ideas from other people. Some of us create our own costumes. We may be the Rock and Roll President or the Do It Yourself CEO. We may decide to be the Hipster Leader or the Articulate President. Someone else may see you as the Nurturing Mother CEO or the Nuts and Bolts Leader.

"The ways people treat us all day show us how we need to trick them."

We may choose our costume with tremendous care. The ways people treat us all day show us how we need to trick them.

We talk about leadership as if it were a costume - clothing intended to create a particular perception in other people. We talk about passing the mantle of leadership, and about someone’s leadership style. We put on our costume and we take on a leadership role. We may play a leadership hero, or a villain, or a clown.

At the end of the day, when we are off the leadership stage, we remove our costume and our mask.

Some of us try on many different costumes, many masks, looking for the one that fits most comfortably. We explore a series of looks and outfits, different shoes and hairstyles, trying to find the one that is exactly right.

When we are wearing our costumes we feel more secure. We relate to people in creative ways when they don’t recognize who we really are. Our costumes protect our true selves, sometimes even from ourselves.

I like Halloween as much as anyone else. I enjoy the opportunity to experiment with being someone else for an evening, and have had some quite memorable Halloween costumes.

I have had some memorable leadership costumes. I have been a high-flying Legal Eagle, and a Tenacious Bulldog. 

The most challenging leadership role I have ever had is one for which there is no mask. 

As I tried my hand at different roles, gaining experience and insight, it became clear to me that leadership does not need to be a costume I use to get people to see me in a certain light. It is not a mask, not makeup.

Leadership is filled with celebration, but it is not a holiday.

In fact, dressing up and pretending to be someone else may be the opposite of leadership. Deeply authentic leadership begins with your own personal core values. 

My understanding of leadership took a significant step forward as I began to explore and discover my own core values. I began to look past the disguises and distractions that can accompany positions of leadership, to see it for what it was.

"Leading your company is sharing your core values with the people around you."

Leading your company is sharing your core values with the people around you. It was only as I began to overcome some of the obstacles to knowing myself well that I came to appreciate how deep leadership can be. 

I know people who need a little help appreciating the difference between who they truly are, what they truly value, and the costumes they wear. Sometimes it takes another person who is willing to listen, ask questions, and help you regain your perspective.

It is an ongoing journey of practice. The times when I am most confident that I am making serious progress are the times when I am most likely to be confused by the guises of leadership.

Halloween may, after all, be a good illustration of leadership. It is not, though, the choosing of costumes or makeup, or the trick-or-treating that show us what leadership can be. It is the time, at the end of the evening, when we take off our masks and reveal ourselves, that shows us what our leadership is all about.

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Greg Richardson
Greg Richardson
Born in rural Wisconsin, Greg Richardson was raised to be very strategic. His life and work have been a voyage of discovery beyond anything he could have imagined. Greg is a recovering attorney and university professor. He has served as a criminal prosecutor, a legislative advocate, and an organizational leader. Greg has recruited, trained, and developed volunteers and staff members for a wide variety of companies. He brings his experience, focus, and sense of humor to each of his endeavors. Greg is also monastic, a lay person connected to a Benedictine hermitage in Big Sur, California.His experiences with monks have taught him the deep importance of working from a person’s, ad an organization’s core values and principles. Greg is a deeper, clearer listener. He knows the benefits of silence and reflection. In addition to balancing being monastic and strategic, Greg has a strong appreciation for the virtues of craft brewing. He is on a personal pilgrimage of craft breweries in Southern California, and he writes a monthly column about craft brewing for an online magazine. Greg now lives in Southern California.

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