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C'mon, Managers: Drop the Act

Not a tough person by nature? Then stop acting tough. Here's why being anything other than authentic in the office is bound to cause trouble.

Do you feel as though you need to put on a different persona when you get to work? Do you have to put on a mask in order to lead your troops?

You're not alone, many leaders resort to wearing masks. Peter Fuda, author of "Leadership Transformed: How Ordinary Managers Become Extraordinary Leaders," wrote a piece in the Harvard Business Review about the importance of de-masking yourself in front of employees.

Fuda says there are two common types of mask-wearing CEOs: those who want to "conceal their perceived inadequacies and flaws behind the polished facade" and others who "take on a new persona at work that they feel is necessary for success."

However, Fuda says that although putting on a front may get you somewhere, it will not help you achieve long-term goals and will ultimately backfire on you. He argues that there is no stronger leader than one that is authentic to their own personality. If you're not a "tough" leader, then don't act tough.

"Both types of masks undermine trust and effectiveness," Fuda writes. "They also create inner conflict, as leaders struggle to align their work and home lives."

In his research, he came across a CEO of a credit reporting and debt collection company who adopted a tough facade after her company was acquired by a private equity firm. When the firm asked her to increase her business's performance, she implemented a strict quota coupled with a three-strikes-you're-out atmosphere.

"After years of working in a macho, male-dominated industry, she thought she had to be highly competitive and hard-driving to succeed," Fuda writes. "Whenever her instincts for openness, warmth, and curiosity bubbled up, she pushed them back down for fear of not being taken seriously. As a result, she created a dysfunctional work environment focused exclusively on execution and results."

But after she dropped the mask, she realized her team responded with better work-- they "[increased] revenue tenfold and [set] industry benchmarks for performance," he writes.

When he asked the CEO what she learned from becoming more authentic, she said: "I wish I had listened to my instincts sooner instead of going through the motions of being tough. I've learned that authenticity comes from confidence, and confidence comes from taking risks but you can't take risks unless you’re prepared to be vulnerable."

Last updated: Oct 10, 2013

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter,

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported on the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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