Iron Mask Not Required

Blog 20-09-22 photo

An executive leadership team I supported was entrenched in a conversation about vulnerability. One member said, “I’m not big on being vulnerable, but I do my best to be authentic.” It hit me then: We should always be authentic, and vulnerability should neither be a goal nor something for which we aim. But sometimes, it does not feel safe to be real…that’s when vulnerability may be required.

I can think of situations where I sensed I would be criticized—or so I thought—if I spoke openly. This thinking had a lot to do with my previous view of the world: People constantly judge; thus, it is not safe to be real. Over my career, as I relax my posture and show up more naturally, I find the opposite occurs: When I am most authentic, people around me tend to lower their guard too and be themselves.

Letting my guard down has felt least risky and most safe when I am clear on my own perspectives, aware of my present emotions, and explicit about my intent. On occasion, I can feel a naked sense from exposing my underbelly when others firmly don their own armor. In those cases, I give myself credit for being myself. Of course, there are instances where I sense it really is not safe for me to be real…that’s when I stop, listen, and read the tea leaves – if you haven’t already, have a glance at my business partner’s blog on toxic cultures.

When my armor comes off, it is not shed carelessly. I do it consciously…not knowing how people will react or a situation may turn out. I do let my guard down because I know it is important and meaningful to me and how I want to show up.

You can let your guard down too. The leadership impact you create in your organization and/or life stands its greatest chance of success when you can create an atmosphere where people (including you) are willing to be themselves. Vulnerability to be yourself is to be celebrated because it takes courage. When you hang up your iron mask and replace it with transparency and authenticity, your relationships can be so much richer and your work much more rewarding.

This Week: Think about a situation where you are not being yourself. Once you have that identified, first ask yourself: How does the ‘armor’ I wear help me? It is important to acknowledge how our protective mechanisms can serve to keep us from harm. Then, answer this question: What could be possible if I were to be more myself in this situation? If your answer energizes you, maybe it is time bring more of YOU to that situation.

In Next Week’s Post: Words matter.

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1 Comment

  1. Doug Brady on September 24, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Nicely done Jen.
    Thanks for sharing.

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