"In my experience as a senior executive in the competitive and fast-paced sporting goods industry, I have seen my share of good leaders.


CEO Mask: The Many Faces Of Leadership

CEO Mask

CEOs and other top executives know all about the pressure to lead. Leaders are perceived as fearless, determined, accountable managers who have the solutions to every problem they and their teams face, or at least, they should most of the time. These expectations weigh on leaders and at times and they fall into the trap of believing that they must wear their CEO mask (or Leader Mask) at all times. As a result, leaders too often limit their interactions in order keep playing the “role” of CEO as they think it’s meant to be played.

However, true leadership requires more than simply putting on the CEO mask and going about the tasks of a CEO; a real leader also knows when to set aside the CEO mask. A leader who masters knowing when to let their guard down will develop more fruitful relationships with peers and employees; taking the mask off can help them better communicate at delicate or tense times without seeming weak.

Switch CEO Stances

Leaders need to be firm yet flexible in their approach to employees; this may especially be the case when a team member is struggling. Too often, leaders feel that they need to play down their empathy. CEOs should remember that they can also create productive exchanges by addressing employees in a more intimate and personal manner and looking into their wellbeing. CEOs who connect with employees in this fashion reap a double reward: more insight into their employees strengths and the trust and respect of that same employee. Ultimately, being an excellent CEO is all about how well you lead both with and without the CEO mask.

Go Beyond “I Know It All”

Because the expectation exists that a CEO should be in complete control, it can be difficult for some leaders to admit a knowledge gap or weakness. However, it is these very moments that enable leaders to grow both personally and professionally. Sometimes leadership manifests itself in the act of seeking guidance from others; but to do this, a CEO must be willing to take off a mask that tells the world: “I have the answers”. Most of the time, a good leader will have answers for many of the organization’s problems, but, in the event they do not, being humble enough to let go of the mask is the only path to self-improvement.

Managing the Mask

It is important to remember, even when you are being open and frank with others, that you should always convey reasonable confidence and strategic vision. In this sense, the CEO mask should always be at least partially worn since it is never appropriate for a leader to demonstrate panic or anguish. For example, an executive may be facing an organizational crisis and want to get the advice of other team members. When reaching out, the executive should clearly communicate the situation in a way that does not betray anxiety. Composure must always be maintained; it is the executive’s job to face organizational problems without compromising their image as a leader.

While it can be tempting to see leadership as a static position, leaders need to recognize the importance of flexibility in their leadership styles. Being able to lead decisively is vastly important, but equally important is the ability to step out of the conventional CEO role and lead in other ways as well. Practice and experience are bound to show any leader the value of shifting leadership styles based on the challenges they face.

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Julie Nimmons

Julie Nimmons

Julie uses her 30 years’ experience to help CEOs, executives and business owners in her Vistage Group find success in their businesses and personal lives. With positive leadership, a firm sense of prioritization and the commitment to lifelong learning, Julie’s creates a constructive workspace for Group members where honesty, innovation and cooperation can flourish.