In the United States Halloween has become one of the most popular holidays of the year – with total spending expected to be $5.85 billion dollars this year. Along with the candy, pumpkin and decorations, costumes are a key component of Halloween celebrations. This is the one time of year when people expect to see, and enjoy seeing, costumes.
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t comment on why people spend time planning, designing, paying for and dressing as if they are someone else. However, whether it’s for escapism, fun or some other reason, donning a costume on October 31 is something people understand and expect.
But the rest of the year, people don’t expect a costume, they want the real you.
In my work with leaders, I find that far too often many leaders are wearing costumes more often than on Halloween.
What do I mean?
Leaders want to feel more confident, so they hide behind a superhero costume hoping to be seen as powerful.
Leaders want to be successful so they emulate a leader they admire sometimes going so far as to copycat a costume, rather than learning from mentors and integrating those lessons into their own style.
Leaders want to be liked, so they wear costumes that attract attention and help people like them.
These are just a few examples – the causes and types of costumes are wide-ranging and very prevalent.
Sometimes these costumes are worn consciously, but far more often it is more subtle and less obvious to the leader/wearer and yet very obvious to the follower/observer.
The problem isn’t necessarily the goal – to be more confident, for example – but that the intention is lost in the costume. Rather than helping leaders get their desired result, the perceptions of those seeing the costume are reduced belief, credibility and trust.
As a leader if you want to build genuine relationships and create real organizational results, you must take off the costume, remove the mask or the makeup and be real.
Today, rather than giving you solutions or a list of ways to remove the costume (perhaps that is for another day), I will challenge you with some questions that must come first. Read these questions slowly, and take some time reflecting on them. If you don’t like your answers, your next step is to put the costume away.
What costumes do you wear?
What benefits do you gain from wearing those costumes?
When or in what roles do you wear them?
Are you gaining the desired benefit from wearing them?
I could go on, but I leave it with just these four. Please take these questions seriously. They may take some time to understand – however, it is time and thought worth investing.
Your answers will help you understand at least one reason why the results you are getting as a leader aren’t the ones you are hoping for.
Enjoy Halloween – just remember to take off your costume when the party is over.