Exceptional Leaders Remove Their Masks

Dec 6, 2022 | Assessment, Executive Coaching

You could describe his whiskers as majestic. They were more than Hipster but not quite Norse-conqueror-level. Ruddy and covering at least the top three buttons of his shirt, his beard was a personal brand that made him stand out at networking events.

So, I had to ask him about it.

It turns out that underneath those impressive Scottish bristles lies a baby face. Early in his career as a clean-shaven restaurateur, he tried to appease a disgruntled customer who demanded to speak to the manager. As the diner saw him approaching, he shouted, “I don’t want to talk to you. I want to talk to your dad!”

From that day on, my networking friend sported a full beard in an attempt to bolster a manly appearance. He thought it would garner him more respect in the workplace.

We make much of facial hair when it relates to manliness in our society. We just came out of the month of November where some let their facial hair grow for 30 days. No Shave November is a men’s health awareness and fundraising campaign that supports non-profit organizations, including Fight Colorectal Cancer. The rules are easy. Don’t shave. Donate the money you would have spent on grooming products to one or more of the 13 participating charities. Even if you didn’t participate in No Shave November, they’ll still appreciate your donation after the fact.

We have blogged a lot about empowering women and minorities to find a seat at the table and to be compensated fairly. We believe this to be important work for our clients in particular and for corporate America in general.

Let’s not forget that men can benefit from help, too. Granted, men are already doing well with higher salaries and more opportunities in general. However, the ease with which men advance, combined with societal expectations surrounding the definition of manhood, can sometimes lull men into underperforming.

Men like to think of themselves as capable, in-charge, correct, and confident. All are stellar qualities for a leader when genuinely present. If the male ego feels threatened, men can grow defensive, be hesitant to ask for help, or overestimate their strengths. None of these qualities are optimal for leadership in the workplace.

As legendary football coach of the Ohio State Buckeyes, Woody Hayes said, “You win with people.”

Great leadership demands us to be, most of all, human. People respond best when they perceive their leaders to be relatable and courageous. I like to think courage is the willingness to be vulnerable and humble…to show your baby face. The best leaders we work with know where they can improve and are taking huge strides to close the gaps while continuing to polish the things that set them apart. They take advantage of executive coaching to move from good to great.

To borrow another sports analogy, the G.O.A.T., Michael Jordan, was recently quoted as saying the skill that set him apart was not his shooting, dribbling, or passing, “I was coachable. I was a sponge and aggressive to learn!”

Never underestimate a star performer who recognizes they still have room for improvement. Atul Gawande is a renowned surgeon and TED speaker approaching 4 million views on YouTube. In his video, Gawande asks, “Want to get great at something? Get a coach.”

Even though he’s an accomplished surgeon, Gawande paid a peer to come to his operating room and observe his surgical procedures for a year to spot the little things that go unnoticed. After a year, post-operative complications in his patients were significantly reduced.

Coaches can provide a more accurate perspective on our strengths, weaknesses, and patterns of behavior. We don’t often recognize the hurdles standing in our way, and if we do, we don’t know how to fix them on our own. Eventually, we stop improving.

It is okay to stop and ask for directions when it comes to your career. In fact, your results are almost guaranteed to be better when you do.

At inclineHR, we begin with our proprietary talent assessment tool – the TAQTM  – to identify your future talent potential while pinpointing critical opportunities for improvement. After the data is gathered and analyzed, one of our executive coaches can offer you developmental guidance to propel your career into new levels of excellence.

It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help. It’s the winning edge that puts you out front while others remain hidden behind their beards, wardrobe, CVs, or countless other trappings that hide and perpetuate their insecurities.


Building Exceptional Leaders