The path to understanding people will lead to greater personal awareness. There are 4 roles you may encounter during your developmental journey. Several contain character traits and skills commonly associated with actors and other performers. The 4 portraits can be seen as roles played that can influence personality styles and overall performance. They are the impressionist, impersonator, imposter and the authentic self. Knowledge of these images and the ability to adjust to them will enable you to adapt and survive in business and social situations.
The impressionist likes to imitate or model someone they admire. They may copy their speech patterns, mannerisms, key phrases, behaviors or routines. The television show Saturday Night Live garners huge ratings during presidential elections. Their actors do a fantastic job with impressions of the political candidates. Actresses Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s impressions of Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton were performed to perfection and rave reviews.
People may accidentally or intentionally model character traits that are synonymous with someone else. Some will select a person and duplicate the way they make decisions or perform their jobs. Individuals may stand like them or speak like them and conduct meetings the way they do. Additionally, they may be drawn to someone’s excellence and decide to emulate a particular characteristic in order to make it their own.
There is a danger in randomly and haphazardly imitating too many people. A person may lose their own identity. Rich Little a famous impressionist who made a living imitating famous entertainers once said, “I have done so many impressions I sometimes forget what my voice sounds like. It is true that we are a composite of many people but we must be strategic and systematic and how we inculcate their traits into our personality. We must be consistent with our true nature and not forget who we are.
Professional development can be helped by utilizing the appropriate impressions. In the early days of my career I worked in the Sales Department, where I had to make decisions when my boss was on vacation. I would ask myself, “How would John handle this particular situation or what would John do if faced with the same set of circumstances?” I would use the same wording and try to deliver messages with the same tone, emphasis and authority, as I imagined John would do it. My impression of John’s decision-making was instrumental in my growth and development.
We are all impressionable and prone to mirror and match behavior. We assume these impressionist tendencies to cope with our environment. This is how we survive and grow. One of the side effects of our impressions is that we may be accused of kissing up to management or trying to gain special favors by being the teacher’s pet.
An impersonator is an impressionist who is totally immersed in a role. They may temporarily abandon their identity and put on another persona. You have seen female impersonators, Elvis impersonators, individuals who impersonate presidents and other political figures. They may go to great lengths to excel and playing the part. We hired a guest speaker who was an impersonator of former president Bill Clinton. He looked like him, spoke like him and had the similar mannerisms. We wondered if he naturally looked like the former president or were enhancements necessary to project that appearance. It may take tremendous sacrifice to stay in character.
Impersonators may eat, sleep, think and act like the person they are imitating. They may assume the person’s name in public. They lose their identity and put on the image and character of another. They will conduct their daily activities from the vantage point of how would that person perform an activity or live their lives. They may give up their own ideas and opinions to become the other person, thus paying tribute to their idol.
Organizations have been known to promote clones of their top executives. This is the epitome of advertising to their employees, the value of impersonating and projecting the corporate image.
You must be careful. Do not surrender your personality to play a role. If you abandon your key traits and characteristics to assume the role of another you have denied yourself the right to fully express your gifts. You cannot fool people into thinking you are the original and you will deprive the world of your authentic self. Remember, a copy will never be a superior representation of the original.
The use of the impersonator style may be due to the image that is rewarded in the organization. People reproduce what is rewarded and what the organization really wants to see. Being an impersonator could also be as innocent as not feeling safe or appreciated by the company. The use of the impersonator style is typically designed to gain a personal benefit. It is often used to please someone in power with your ability to pattern your behavior after their professional image. You may be seeking a mentor/protégé relationship. You are hopeful that they in turn will generously lavish you with special favors or recognition.
The imposter is based on misrepresentation. They claim to be someone or something they are not. They present an image that is inauthentic, false or misleading. This is easy to see on the movie screen or in television shows where the person assumes the identity of a dead person or through examples of identity theft, where someone assumes another person’s identity to steal their money.
However, an imposter is difficult to see in business and in your relationships, especially if we want to believe they are who they claim to be. Hopefully, we find out about their deception before significant damage is done.
The imposter in an interview misrepresents their personal history. They may assume the personality of someone they think the employer is wishing to hire. They may profess credentials, such as degrees, skills or connections that are nonexistent. They present themselves with high integrity and character which are far from their real values and personality. The imposter is a liar and will do anything to fool you into thinking their façade is their true image or actual position on an important matter.
Years ago one of our offices on the West coast hired a person they were pleased to bring on board. They said she was intelligent, beautiful and articulate with an electric personality. When she arrived at the office to sign up for the company orientation they were surprised by her calm, demure and low keyed demeanor. She was introverted and had little to say, which was a concern since she had to make presentations to physicians. They felt something was wrong, but they couldn’t explain it.
At the end of the second day of her orientation she mentioned that she was going to meet her sister for dinner. She introduced her sister to the group. You guessed it. It was her twin sister. She was equally beautiful, articulate and intelligent with an electric personality. They wondered if they had hired an imposter. Most cases of imposters are not this dramatic.
When an imposter is discovered, justice is usually swift. The person is confronted, embarrassed and fired. Their reputation is ruined and many people may be hurt in the process. If you are tempted to pose as an imposter, remember, the results are rarely positive. The masquerade is seldom worth the pain and embarrassment when you are exposed.
The authentic self should be the desired objective or personality style. You should be vigilante and remain true to your real character and true self. The authentic self is who we really are. It is true that we may model some of our behavior after the three earlier models. However, this is done to enhance not to misrepresent your authentic self.
We are a composite a combination of many factors woven together to form a distinct creation with the potential to achieve phenomenal results. If we feel threatened we will be reluctant to bring our whole selves to work because it may be used against us. This fear is a challenge to authenticity and may tempt us to be an impressionist, impersonator or imposter to ensure our survival.
You will find out that there is no substitute to being authentic. The refreshing satisfaction of fulfilling your purpose will grant you the peace you need to joy the success of the life lived to the fullest with integrity.
*Excerpt from Unlock Your Diversity Greatness, release date 4th quarter of 2015
Copyright © 2015 Orlando Ceaser