Masks - Facades of Success

How our layers of roles and personas create a wall between us, happiness, and success.

“I’ve always wanted to be a brooding, deep, dark artist, but I can never keep that facade going for more than 15 minutes.” ~ Bryan Callen

When I first started in business, we would meet other entrepreneurs all the time. The ones with some experience appeared to be highly confident and flawless. They talked about how great business was, and would offer advice on how to achieve success.

Even some of the other starting business owners sounded like they knew more than us.

I started wondering when we would have everything figured out like they did.

Sure a few said they had no idea what they were doing, and relied on competent staff for success. But, it felt like a facade of humility.

Then I started noticing the cracks in the armor.

People would say business is great, and then in a month or two, they were closing shop. Or you would hear from someone else that they were struggling to find clients. Or two business partners were having a major disagreement. Or a myriad of other hidden truths.

Here is a little secret of being an entrepreneur that isn’t always talked about openly.  We make a lot of mistakes and don’t always know what we are doing.

When you think about it, it is perfectly normal. Entrepreneurs are building something new, and the world is constantly changing. You are dealing with people. If that doesn’t lead to new and unknown situations, you are a pretty rare example.

Our Personas

People tend to adopt personas based on how they see themselves and the roles they play. Even people who are relatively free spirits do this.

Most people tend to separate their professional lives from their private lives. At work, they are tough and professional. At home, they are trying to be a caring spouse and playful father. Men tend to have the added burden of following the societal rules of manhood.

As an entrepreneur and leader, part of the role is to appear confident and unruffled by challenges that crop up. So even though we are screaming with panic inside, we are calm on the exterior. Further complicating matters, is the audience we are addressing. We have business partners, other senior team leaders, the rest of the organization, clients and vendors.

These facades seem to be a part of how we work as humans. Understanding how they can work against you is important.

The Three Facades

There are three entrepreneurial facades I’ve observed. Only one is sustainable.

“Even though photographers are only shooting the outside, beauty is more about who you are as a person – the life you lead – not your facade.” ~ Nigel Barker

I Love What I Do

I see this one a lot with business owners who chose something that they ended up hating, or they’ve gotten bored with what they do after many years.

They tell the world, and even themselves, a story about how much they love what they are doing.

Let’s be real, we often have to do some things that we don’t enjoy. I don’t enjoy letting people go or repetitive tasks. Sometimes it needs to be done.

But when there is a significant disconnect with what you say you feel and what you feel, people can sense it. More importantly, it slowly eats at you.

I Am Tough and Flawless

This facade is often adopted by professionals and consultants who are sought out for their expertise. It is also pretty common among entrepreneurs.

A certain amount of confidence is necessary.

The problems start when it is no longer close to your authentic self.

You are introverted and try to play the raging extrovert to compensate. You make mistakes but deny you made them or pass the blame to someone else to maintain your illusion of perfection but inside you know you are faking it.

Sometimes I Have To

You adopt the persona of your best authentic self.

But some days, you aren’t your best self. Sometimes you are depressed. Sometimes you have to deal with personal issues. Some days you just don’t know how to move forward.

Your business, your employees, and your clients need you. So you put on the facade so you can serve them, and ultimately yourself, the way they expect.

The difference here is that this is a temporary front you adopt to focus your attention on others.

The trick to avoid changing it to one of the other types of facade is not to deny that there is a problem or disconnect but to deal with it. You may need to keep it to a select trusted confidant, or you may be able to be a little vulnerable with your some of your team or even close clients.


Clients want to deal with people who are authentic and relatable. But, the reality is they have their own issues and usually don’t want to become involved in yours. When things are not going as expected, employees need a calming influence from their leaders.

So sometimes you just have to.

Because your best, authentic-self is pretty good, but it is not perfect.

This post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

Photo credits (modified): Flickr/Alessandra