Leading and Masking

Should Leaders be Doing Both?

by Liam Glover

[3 minute read]


I boarded to fly interstate this week and upon entry into the aerobridge I was asked to collect a fly well pack, which included a disposable mask. Masks are not particularly prevalent in Queensland, but we were encouraged to wear it for the “safety and comfort of fellow travellers.” I followed the instructions and noticed pretty much straight away a couple of things. My phone didn’t recognise me anymore. And I smile a lot when travelling and despite me smiling at lots of people, my smile was not recognised nor reciprocated.

I read an article recently about the increasing incidence in the US of the requirement of “masking” – the act of wearing a mask. My friends and colleagues in Victoria are now masking as they leave their homes for the four essential purposes. I had a new level of appreciation of how Victorians feel when masking and interacting with others.

The wearing of masks is not necessarily a new thing. It was fairly common within ancient Greek and Asian theatres, helping audiences immediately discern the nature of the character being played by the actor. And as is often the case, the role being played by the actor may be totally different from her true character.

We have been recruiting recently and in preparation for the interviews, I re-read a book by one of Arrow’s presenters Dr Ken Byrne, “Seeing Behind the Job Applicant’s Mask Before You Hire.”[1] The essential message of the book is that a key element of the recruitment process is to discover who the candidates really are – their strengths, weaknesses, abilities, character, preferences and passions. Sometimes, the book contends, candidates are masking, masquerading who they really are by presenting a version of how they think the potential employer would like them to be.

There have been times over the last few decades where I have witnessed leaders masking. (Perhaps you have seen this, or you have been a mask wearer yourself. There have been times when I have masked.) That the mask metaphorically worn is not indicative of their true character or the mask seeks to present a perceived preferred version of themselves to those around them. Either way, a level of deception is at hand. And I don’t think deception reflects the patterns of behaviour and practices of Jesus.

Henry Cloud defines integrity (in his book of the same name)[2] as, “the courage to meet the demands of reality.” (He then spends some time sharing how to do this. If you haven’t read his book yet, it’s definitely worth reading.) Jesus consistently had the heart to meet the demands of his reality and, increasingly, inviting others to pursue a renewed reality of the Kingdom of God. Jesus never appeared to “wear” a mask – he only mirrored what he saw and heard from his Father.

Jesus treated those with whom he connected so lovingly – whether it was the woman at the well, the demoniac or the Pharisees - holistic love, with justice, truth and grace. As leaders and influencers for the cause of Christ, we have an incredible opportunity to point people to the coming Kingdom through being led more by Jesus to lead more like Jesus.

So, in light of the above, where does that leave us, as leaders, regarding masking? Here’s a few questions to consider (as I have writing this blog)….

  • God already knows your heart. He knows you maskless. When have you last acknowledged before God all that is happening beyond what people might see of your leadership?
  • What are the implications of those close to us seeing us without a metaphorical mask?
  • How will we as unmasked leaders encourage people towards the Kingdom or point them elsewhere?
  • Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is a time for every activity under heaven. How do you discern what level of disclosure (revealing more fully what’s happening beneath the veneer of your leadership) you make in the various contexts of your leadership assignment?

Our Executive Leaders Program Director, Peter, when sharing about Arrow says, “Arrow provides an environment where you can be honest with yourself, before God and others.” To me, that sounds like leading without masking. What does it look like for you to find that environment where you can be mask free?

[1] Byrne, Ken (2020). Seeing Behind the Job Applicant’s Mask Before You Hire.

[2] Cloud, H (2009). Integrity: the courage to meet the demands of reality. New York: Harper