Once I dressed up as a greaser for Halloween
donning jeans, a white t-shirt, a black, leather jacket and slicked-back hair. I didn’t have any natural affinity for the greasers, nor am I nostalgic for that era. But the fact is, this was the simplest costume for me to cobble together, because I already owed the jeans, a white t-shirt, and a black, leather jacket.
Do you know what I had to purchase? Vaseline for my hair.
That I put.
In my hair.
And it stayed in my hair.
For a week.
Long enough for a breeding colony of gnats to take up residence on my head.
I’m straying from the point I want to make, so let me get back to it.
Costumes are a funny thing
I performed in plays during my college years, and I’ve put on makeup and garb from roles ranging from political figures to lunatics, from poets to Lucifer. More than once, dressing up for the part took longer than the performance itself.
But that’s all I was doing: putting on a costume and playing a role. I wasn’t becoming another person; I was just pretending to be another person. Once I washed off the makeup and put on street clothes, I was just myself again.
Leadership isn’t about playing a role
Do you know what happened to the era of men wearing hats in America? Jack Kennedy killed it off. Do you know why? Kennedy had great hair, and he showed it off. Other men followed suit. Hats were out; bare heads were in. Instead of a nation of men wearing, literally, many hats, we became a nation of hatless men.
Leadership isn’t about wearing many hats
What talents were you born with? What comes naturally to you? Maybe you’re a planner, a brilliant tactician. Perhaps you’re more a dreamer and an innovator. Or it could be that you’re a strategist and a visionary, always able to get in front of the next big trend.
Whatever your natural gift, that’s what you should wear, that’s your “hat.” And while you might serve in multiple and various roles throughout the day and throughout your career, you will never be more comfortable and competent than when you get exceedingly strong at doing what you do best. Play into your strengths, and use them proudly. They suit you well and look natural on you.
Leadership is about being yourself
Putting Vaseline in my hair was a bad idea. It went on easy, but it was a nightmare to remove. (I later learned that Dawn dish soap would have worked!). And the fact is, I didn’t need to put real GREASE in my hair to create the same results.
And you don’t have to copy someone else to be a great leader. You don’t have to become someone else to be a great leader. You don’t have to put on the hat of someone else to be a great leader.
Leadership is about leading from your strengths
When the children of Israel faced the Philistine giant, Goliath, a young shepherd boy named David stepped forward to fight on behalf of Israel. King Saul gave David his own battle armaments to wear: his shield, helmet, sword, etc. But King Saul was a big man, and David was just a teenager. Saul’s clothes didn’t fit the boy. So David picked up the weapon he knew–a simple strap of leather called a sling, and a handful of stones.
Spoiler alert: David won.
Vaseline. Hats. Roles. It’s easy to get caught up into thinking that leadership is a matter of appearances, a matter of looking the part.
Being comfortable in your own skin. Proudly wearing the hat that fits you. Going with what you know. Leading from the inside-out. Real leadership is about being and doing. Feel free to come as you are.