The Ruse of the Two Rėsumės

Jan 24, 2019

By Mark Stevens

When one of my sons arrived at college for his freshman year, one of his first classes took him by surprise.

The professor—brown tweed suit, bow tie, right out of central casting—proceeded to greet his highly impressionable students with a power point that outlined his impeccable credentials: cum laude this, chairman of that, Fields medal winner in physics, and on and on.

In an instant, my son wrote him off as a stuffed shirt, pompous academic who had to make a boastful impression on a group of young students. It looked like a classic case of overkill that had backfired on a prince of the ivy campus.

But then, a moment later, the scholar lit up a second Power Point: "My other resume," as he put it. This one revealed the dark side of his life:
—Recovered alcoholic
—Neglectful father
—Insensitive and uncaring husband and friend

With this brutally honest revelation, the professor redeemed himself in my son's eyes. More than that, he earned his respect as a man who was willing to be open and transparent about himself, awards and warts alike. And my son embraced the opportunity to learn from him, which turned out to be one of his most rewarding experiences during his four years at school.

My epiphany from this experience was immediate and profound: everyone has two resumes. The one we show the world with total transparency and the private one we guard carefully and keep to ourselves. This is only natural and universal. We are, after all, entitled to a private life.

A way to engage students’ attention has nothing to do with the issue of trust, but it is crucial in business relations as well as personal relations. Whom can you trust? Is a person’s word true?

The trick for all of us in business is to identify who is using the two resumes to market themselves authentically and who is using them to manipulate reality to the level of a con; moreover, do we apply the standard for authenticity and integrity to ourselves, as well?

What we are dealing with here is an issue of leadership. True leaders exhibit the following signature qualities:

—Honesty: When they make statements, provide feedback, offer criticism and/or encouragement, their team members know that what they are saying has no hidden agenda and reflects what they truly believe. Even more than that, they can often learn from the leader's direction knowing what she says is truly in the best interest of the company.

—Integrity: We know that when they make mistakes or when problems in the business lie at their doorstep, they will call the shots as they are rather than seeking to pawn the failures or missteps off on others. They do not have a bogus resume to protect.

—Reliability: They remain steadfast in their direction, true to their commitments, and always available when they are needed for the challenges and the opportunities alike. They are the ones you can count on and for this reason, the ones who gain the loyalty and the allegiance of their teams.

Think of all of this as you assess your own leadership qualities and stature in light of the two resumes:

  • Do your people truly know who you are?
  • Are they confident that what you say today will hold up tomorrow?
  • Do they see you as someone they can confide in, or are they concerned that you are too preoccupied with your own image to respect the substance and the privacy of what you have to say?

A great manager works to encourage and mentor his team (the way my son's professor ultimately acted with his students) so that they can surpass you in skill and talent. Their "resumes" are as important as yours. They want you to succeed as opposed to simply embellish their own resumes.

If you are transparent, if you are someone your people can trust, admire, believe in, you will engender the kind of inspiration that turns managers into motivators and companies into meteors.

About the Author(s)

Mark Stevens is CEO of MSCO and author of The Art and Science of Growing Businesses. For more information, visit:,, and