Masqueraders of Clarity are the things in our businesses and our lives that we think are clear or give us direction, but in actuality, they take us off track by wasting our energy and time, money and resources. So, as leaders, what can we do to change that? Understanding and exposing a few of our masqueraders is fundamental to operating and leading in clarity.

  • Best Practices + Outdated Mandates

“Don’t try to beat the competitors at their own game. You have to invent a new game – and master it.” – Reid Hoffman

Best practices can be a helpful shortcut during a learning or developing phase to make teams operational more quickly. From there, it is critical to cut loose and look towards the better fit for your organization. Otherwise, you are losing the opportunity for your organization to find an even better way to do something, or find a value driver for one of your customers. Don’t push something forward because it is the historical way it has always been done by others. Instead, take the initiative to check alignment and to survey your customers as their experiences of you and your services will be the definitive guide.

  • Past Performance

“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” –Raymond Lindquist

History can be an indicator, but it cannot dictate or ensure future performance. Think of the variables in your business environment that are constantly changing – any reliance on or connection to the past can rob us of the full expression of our ever-evolving potential. Adaptability and agility require of us that we constantly iterate go make forward progress.

  • Policy

“The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.” – Niccolo Machiavelli

While there are companies whose policies empower the worker to make the right decision, most often, company policies provide permission for employees or companies to not do the right thing. Don’t let policy define negative behaviors or dictate outcomes. Rather, seek clarity in finding solutions, often based in common sense, higher levels of training, and an appropriate delegation of authority that empowers people on the front line.

  • Boards + Founders

“A wise board accumulates rational wisdom, embraces unconventional wisdom, and sharpens system wisdom.” – Pearl Zhu

Boards are most effective in a governance role, for setting the organization’s vision, for reviewing the CEOs’ performance, and for working with and supporting the CEO in achieving the stated strategic objectives for the business. However, they become masqueraders when they begin to knowingly or unknowingly assume the responsibilities of the CEO and leadership team, or when they insert their expertise or directive into the equation at the expense of the leaders and even the organization. In clarity, their responsibilities must be clearly stated, strategically led, and continually revisited.

  • Politics

“Do not let the behavior of others destroy your inner peace” – Dalai Lama

Politics impair your ability to lead with clarity and certainty instead of doing what is best for the whole of the organization. Clarity comes when the politics are pierced and doing what is right prevails, even when that might mean doing what is unpopular.

  • Suck-Ups and People Pleasers

“Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!” – The Phantom of the Opera, Masquerade

Suck-Ups and People Pleasers are everywhere, prioritizing their own ambitions and self-protection over the flow of data and information up the chain of leadership. This masquerade is effective because they are often well-liked and depended upon, but they are fueled by their own hubris and manipulate and maneuver to do whatever it takes for survival. As leaders, we are only as good as the people around us; recognize the motives of your team and stay aligned in clarity.

  • Compliance

“We need people who push boundaries rather than retreat inside them.” ― Tim Fargo

Compliance is often mistaken for clear direction, but checking a box doesn’t signal true commitment; instead, this masquerader can devalue each of us to the lowest common denominator. As a leader, create an environment of demonstrating instead of complying.  When your employees are demonstrating in their work performance, they are showing up and putting intentions into action because they are part of something larger – creating true alignment across your organization.

  • Leaders + Managers

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen Covey

It is critical to unmask the differences of a leader’s and a manager’s functions and define each of their behaviors. Going through a competency sort leads each organization through the process of selecting their own collection of competencies, then creating their own unique data and application – for clarity around the two very different roles and skillsets and ultimately driving organizational performance.

  • Political Correctness

“Those who make conversations impossible, make escalation inevitable.” ― Stefan Molyneux

By neutralizing our words and behaviors, we end up missing the opportunity to have meaningful discourse and debate what really matters because much of what we want to say has been labeled as too offensive or inflammatory. And then, our decisions as leaders end up only being educated guesses without longevity, rather than solutions made on complete information.

Ensure transparent conversations with your team and you will find conversations and decisions being built upon a shared foundation of understanding.

  • Cause

“Always do right. It will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” – Mark Twain

A good, concerned public face can masquerade bad business behavior. Doing right and good by the community is a powerful tool, but one that quickly exposes the inner core of your company. As leader, make sure any cause or social responsibility marketing connects to your commitment to doing the right thing and is driven by insight into yourself, your company, and its culture – and the rest will follow.

Masqueraders unmasked

What do all these masqueraders have in common? They avoid reality; they avoid the hard work that needs to be implemented in order to create the systems that one deserves; they avoid the gap between viewpoints; they avoid the pursuit of a common goal for those involved. Unmask your masqueraders and lead in clarity.

Questions to ask yourself as a leader in your company:

  • What are five masqueraders in your company?
  • How do your masqueraders negatively impact your company?
  • What steps can be taken to “unmask,” or remove, your masqueraders?
  • How would this positively impact your company?