Don’t Fake It, Feel It

While watching the Academy Awards this year I learned about an amazing music teacher named Gregg Breinberg. The kids at PS22 call him Mr B. In a word: WOW!

An article on the Open Education blog described Gregg in this way:  “Gregg has inspired countless youngsters at one of those everyday public schools filled with kids from all walks of life to reach for heights they could never have imagined or accomplished on their own. He is a young man with incredible passion and a never-ending commitment to his craft and his students. He is also proof positive of what a great teacher can accomplish.”

Sounds like a leader in action to me!  Here is their Academy Award debut.

During the show I saw an interview with one of his students.  He said Mr. B. tells them “Don’t Fake It, Feel it”. This is not only great advice for performers, it is wonderful advice for leaders.

If you watched the video you can actually witness these kids feeling the music.  The effect is profound.

You may have heard of the TV game show called “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?”.  As I watch the numerous inspiring and now famous YouTube videos of Mr. B’s students performing and being interviewed about what makes him such a great teacher I find myself asking a different question: Am I as Passionate as a Fifth Grader?

Many of us have been trained to keep our emotions in check, especially in the workplace.  It seems as though the socially accepted range of emotion has left far too many people going through the motions and people in leadership positions operating like talking heads rather than feeling human beings.

It’s time to bring our emotion back into the workplace – the emotions that are fueled by our personal passions and our desire to do great work and make the biggest possible difference in everything we do.

The next time you catch yourself just going through the motions remember this phrase:  Don’t Fake It, Feel It!

What different do you think leading with this mantra in mind could make for you as a leader and/or for the organizations you serve?


Enter A Comment

Rick Ross   |   29 March 2011   |   Reply

Your title says it all. Terrific advice for leaders. Great post. Thanks Susan!

Susan Mazza   |   31 March 2011   |   Reply

Thank you Rick

Jenny Tsai   |   29 March 2011   |   Reply

Great post. I do agree that we don’t need to hide our emotion and show it to the workplace. Of course in a good way. 🙂

Susan Mazza   |   31 March 2011   |   Reply

Thanks Jenny. Good point. I’ve witnessed quite a few examples of emotion shown in a bad way, ie., a way that harms or undermines others.

Yet I actually think we need to expand what we mean by showing emotion “in a good way”. We have to be careful not to label some emotions like anger for example as inherently bad. I think it is the commitment behind the emotion that is the source of what effect any emotion expressed has on others.

Florent   |   10 November 2015   |   Reply

Wonderful story. Thanks for bringing it to our attnotien. Isn’t amazing how small the world is and how it may take years but things really do go full circle. It’s also a good reminder that sometimes it’s the smallest things we do (we may even forget) that can have a huge impact. Whether it be an act of kindness..but also remember that mean act don’t go forgotten either. Wow..it is true we lead by example.

Jenifer Olson   |   29 March 2011   |   Reply

Nicely said, Susan!

From a leadership perspective, I think giving people permission to express their emotions encourages them to be more passionate and engaged as individuals, more tolerant of others’ views and ultimately, more committed and loyal to the entire organization. They value that which values them. How can this not be a good thing? 🙂


Susan Mazza   |   31 March 2011   |   Reply

Thanks Jennifer. You add some great points of the value of expressing and creating an environment that encourages the expression of emotion.

I keep having this scene run in my head from a movie with Tom Hanks where he said “there is no crying in baseball”! In his world view anger was ok, but crying was off limits (not that different from the corporate world!). Yet how can we expect people to truly express themselves fully if we can’t allow for the normal range of human emotion to be expressed in the ways human beings naturally express them?

Michelle Fox   |   01 April 2011   |   Reply

I think leading with a “Don’t fake it, Feel it!” attitude would create a greater atmosphere of accountability and personal connection in a workplace. When leaders fake their responsibilities and their roles, they are less likely to be effective, whereas a leader who “feels it” is more passionate about the connection with those they lead and the quality of the outcome. I love that mantra!

Susan Mazza   |   06 April 2011   |   Reply

Great points and well said Michelle. Thank you!

Beyond Horizons   |   22 June 2011   |   Reply

Great advice! It is important to not ‘fake it’. Because when you’re being who you are, its easy to sustain. And that adds consistency and credibility to your leadership. When your employees see that you’re being you, they will learn to trust and respect you.
It will also make them feel comfortable enough to contribute more and be creative.

– Sindoora (http://www.beyondhorizons.in)