The Leader as Authentic Actor

Actors on stage and screen are not genuine. They are fakes. They are playing a part, not themselves. Of course, we expect them to do this and, furthermore, we expect them to do it really well, to convince us that they are the character they are playing.


But what about a managers who has to play a part and perhaps not express their fully genuine self in a particular situation? For example,

  • In challenging economic times, projecting a confidence he may not fully feel himself
  • Being brutally honest with a chronic under performer, with a toughness that she has to stretch to access in herself
  • An introverted leader addressing a staff conference using an extraverted enthusiasm that feels phony to him

We want our leaders to be authentic. In fact, integrity stands at the apex of any list of qualities of extraordinary leaders. Sometimes, however, the toughest thing a leader is called upon to do is step out of her comfort zone and present a different part of her personality. These are situations when her judgment, experience or intuition tells her it is right, even though it feels anything but natural.

But when this happens, she is not being authentic. What gives? How can we reconcile the paradox?

My answer: give her a pass when she temporarily takes on a different persona, as long as:

  1. she has the best of intent for the organization and the individuals involved and
  2. she makes this temporary shift in behavior and demeanor in full awareness of her true self, of who (and how) she really is.

© 2011 – 2016, Ian Cook. All rights reserved.

Ian Cook About Ian Cook

Ian Cook, presenter and consultant, works with managers who want to increase their effectiveness as a leader and build a stronger team. To book Ian for a training seminar, team facilitation or keynote presentation, call toll-free at: 1-888-FULCRUM (385-2786) or e-mail: For more articles and book reviews of interest to managers please go to: