iStock_000019135640SmallI’ve been struck recently by people’s chosen personas – the way a person chooses to act in his or her situation.

People on opposing sides of issues were in meetings I facilitated or observed. In one case, the members of an opposing side chose to disconnect, to not engage.

They limited their involvement in the proceedings. Their leader was the puppet master – the members of that team watched their leader closely to get clues about how to act, whether to speak, whether to share ideas or pose solutions.

In another case, the members of an opposing side took a very active role. They engaged in the activities. They shared their experiences, their thoughts, even their hopes. Their leader was simply another team member who was equally participative and engaged. People were free to dialog with no strings attached.

In their meeting, the flow of ideas, the understanding of others perceptions, and the team’s active involvement helped move both sides towards potentially breakthrough solutions that all can support.

The leaders of these two teams chose very different personas. Each chose their role. Just like a talented actor or actress, these leaders immersed themselves in their “character.” They each played their role as they felt their role should be played.

In the first case, the role inhibited progress towards a mutually beneficial solution. In the second case, the role enabled that progress.

When you choose a persona, you are masking your true self. You are playing a role – for a day or a month or a career – that is different than who you really are at your core.

The “acting” required of any persona requires energy to maintain. It can be exhausting! When you invest great energy in a persona, you have less energy available to you to engage in the aligned activities that might inspire you.

It can get more complex. I’ve seen people play multiple roles in their organization – and each role requires a different persona. One would have to work hard to keep the personas consistent – acting one way on a project team, for example, but acting quite differently on your own functional team.

It requires effort to keep the personas straight, to remember which role you’re playing in which situation.

Why do we engage in these personas? There are dozens of reasons. The persona might be one a parent played or it might be one your boss demands of you.

Your organizational culture can place role demands on you. If you live in a cut-throat, “I win, you lose” culture, you may have to embrace a cut-throat persona to survive.

If the roles you play or the personas you present exhaust you, you might be acting in conflict with your true self, your personal purpose and values.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

How can you be yourself? Start by being intentional about your true core by defining your personal purpose, your “reason for being” on this earth, and your personal values and behaviors.

Once you clarify your purpose and values, it is less likely that you will invest time in roles or personas that are contrary to your purpose and values.

Reduce the energy invested in mis-aligned roles or personas. Be the best self you can be, in your family, your workplace, and your community.

Please share your insights, comments, and questions in the comments section below.

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway: the Great Boss Assessment and the Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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