Do you have strong relationships with the people you work with every day? You know, staff, clients and partners?  

Are they willing to help you fight the good fight with whatever challenge your organization faces?

If you can't answer with a resounding "yes," then let's talk Mardi Gras.

Specifically, the party I attended Saturday night in downtown Portland.

Let me set the stage: picture 400 plus people of all ages wearing their splendid costumes. Fancy masks, decorative beads, blinking holiday lights, all circulated throughout the time-tested Tiffany Ballroom. To say I was "wowed" is an understatement.

In fact, I was totally blown away by one couple who dressed as life-like versions of wild blue herons. Tons of creativity on display as these fun, uninhibited folks sipped their rum-laced Hurricanes and danced to the zydeco-fueled music.

Can you say good time?

Interestingly enough, it  got me to thinking about leadership. Or should I say great leadership. And the big question: do we as leaders really take off our masks? Do we ever fully reveal ourselves, warts and all, to others?

My guess is that for the majority of us, we don't.

Which is a pity because we never will create the powerful relationships with our stakeholders needed to fulfill our missions. The relationships that are built on mutual understanding, respect and trust.

But all that can change quickly if we leaders just adopt three simple practices:

1. Take Off the Mask:  Let your employees and key stakeholders know a little bit more about yourself so they better understand you. Uncovering a bit of your past and life story offers them some understanding of who you are. Be authentic. By being vulnerable, it makes it easier for them to trust and respect you.

2. Stop, Ask and Listen:  Ask more about an employee's background. Let them open up about their personal life so they can share their own challenges or successes. It gives you a better glimpse of what they face in their day-to-day lives and if your organization benefits from their unique perspective. Of course, it builds trust.

3. Seek Their Advice: Great leaders know the power of strong relationships. They seek opinions and advice from people all across their organizations. Both Tom Peters in his book In Search of Excellence and Stephen Covey in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People discuss reaping the benefits of encouraging employees to be more forthcoming and candid. You, in turn, might find a gem that pushes your organization forward toward its mission.

So here's to understanding, respect and trust. May you build upon these powerful characteristics of the world's most admired leaders and their organizations.

The good news is that you don't need a mask to do it.

Oh, and just in case anyone cares, I wore a purple hat, black mask and necklaces of colorful shiny beads. Or as my girlfriend so eloquently stated,  I was the spitting image of a cross between an aging pimp and the Keebler elf.

To get our book, "25 Building Blocks To Create a Conscientious Organization" FREE, go to for an instant download.