Is it brave to be real? We all have a choice to make every day – are we going to be ourselves, or are we going to fake it?

Many of you may have read my last story, “Our Legacy in the Stories People Tell” (copied below); a comment from a dynamic entrepreneur really hit home as the perfect topic for a follow-up to that story. He said: “Interesting how you are so open personally with your client base and referral sources – definitely brave of you!”
I thought about this a while and realized that sharing thoughts and observations about my life, the business world, and the great relationships I have is, in fact, rather personal. But why do it this way?

I was reminded of three people who have influenced me with their unique ability to be themselves – maybe they will make you think of similar people in your lives:

There was Captain Ed Whelan who I worked with when I was just getting started as a business unit leader in my corporate life. He had been a career officer in the Navy and I was lucky enough to benefit from his mentorship during his second career. I still remember how comfortable he was in his own skin – he naturally made everyone around him comfortable as well. He tried hard to help a fairly clueless young leader understand the benefits that authenticity might offer me – clearly he believed that was the kind of leadership people really wanted. While I wish I’d been able to listen better back then, I have never forgotten his message.

Then, over the past 12 years, I’ve been learning from the passionate and authentic leadership of Janice Kraus, the Founder and Producer of the nonprofit Stagelight Family Productions, a youth theater program in Orange County. My daughter and thousands of other kids like her have received a huge confidence boost from the experience of performing and being part of a great team effort, so the benefits for the kids are unmistakable. However, it is Janice’s authentic and uniquely personal leadership that makes the program a true community. The experience is not just for the kids – the unique culture of trust that Janice creates is inspiring to parents and kids alike.

And now, in recent years, I have been able to work alongside a great volunteer leader who inspires me with his own special brand of authenticity – Rick Donahue, the Board Chairman for the YMCA of Orange County. Rick has an uncanny way of allowing his natural realness and seek-no-credit approach to bring out the best in everyone. He is always able to laugh at himself – he obviously has great self-awareness and quiet confidence – and he disarms much of the anxiety that can easily arise in such a group. Also, because of his passionate external focus on our charitable mission, he makes everyone uniquely comfortable and inspires a common passion in all of us.

So, is it brave to be real or must we be real to be truly effective?

These three examples are a lens for looking at ourselves and they help me know why being personal is a necessity for me – besides it just feeling right, I also know I’d be a terrible fake (I’m not a good enough actor!)

Give yourself the gift of thinking about people in your world who are great at being authentic. You never know, there just may be a nugget of brilliance there that can teach a great lesson.

Thanks for sharing time with me; as always, I welcome your feedback and please feel free to pass this message along to others who may find value.


Stagelight Family Productions –
YMCA of Orange County –

Jeff Black
Managing Principal Consultant, McDermott & Bull Executive Search
Cell: (714) 356-1949 Office: (949) 753-1700 ext. 310
2 Venture, Suite 100 Irvine, CA 92618