In his book, Leadership from the Inside Out, author Kevin Cashman accurately notes the duality of the human condition, particularly in corporate environments, where reward practices, influence, and senior executive behaviors can have a significant impact on culture. Cashman illustrates that man’s “internal battle” (my words) puts human beings in struggle between persona and character.
Persona reflects how we are perceived in leadership environments when we focus more on image, control, fear, safety, resistance to change, distraction, and many of the “trappings” of position power. He aptly cites that true and meaningful transformation occurs when we move away from persona and towards character. The character driven leader instinctively models openness, a sense of purpose, courage, inclusion, authenticity, a sense of balance, and a peaceful presence.
In my current teachings, I hold the “persona- character” mirror up as a way of encouraging developing leaders to continue their evolution. For human beings in positions of power and authority, transformational change can be a daunting process. It requires us to constantly challenge, question, and reflect on our personal core beliefs and environments as well as our personal family of origin and all that it has contributed to (or detracted from) our sense of well-being.
Socrates stated that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” The ancient Greeks were given to hyperbole for the sake of emphasis, but the take away from Socrates is that we should seek meaning in our lives, in order to live life to our highest potential, as people and as leaders.
A more positive way to ponder this daunting- but otherwise wonderful opportunity, is to encourage adults to maintain the curiosity they had as children. Until we are comfortable reflecting upon, challenging, re-examining, and evolving our personal core beliefs and our behavior, migration from persona to character is not likely to occur.
Are you willing to take the deep dive?