So I decided to just come dressed as me.
A couple years ago after a 17 hour flight I was passing through airport customs in a transfer on my way home. As I laid my passport on the counter, the officer (who looked to be about 12 years old and could barely see under the brim of his very large hat) picked it up and scrutinized it, looking from the passport to me, and back again, and again. He bobbed his head up and down from the passport in his hand to stare at me. After a few minutes of this, I became a bit uncomfortable and aware of the very long line behind me. I kind of laughed and said, “yeah, different color hair”.
Well, that did it! He shouted at me “are you trying to deceive Homeland Security?” I did that scrintchy thing we do with our faces as we try to figure something out and said, “What are you talking about?” He then yelled louder than ever “I ASKED YOU IF YOU ARE TRYING TO DECEIVE US BY COLORING YOUR HAIR!”
By this time, we have an audience. Now, it is nearly a foregone conclusion that both passport photos and drivers license photos be as uncomplimentary to the owner as possible. And mine was no exception. It’s not what I would put on Facebook for sure. Perhaps he just could not see the real me in the photo.
Anyway, it seemed my hair change from dark to blonde was an issue of national security, and I was getting a bit embarrassed and angry to be called out on it and I said “since when is being blonde a crime especially as I am standing here in the heart of Texas where I’m sure the hairdressers order peroxide by the barrel!”
He looked at me once more, slapped down the passport and told me to go.
I think of this story not as an exercise in custom officer customer service improvement, or airport challenges, but about how we show up as leaders every day.
We may have the corporate identity we wear as a badge, but we have a choice every day how we show up what costume we wear as leaders. What we portray to others. And sometimes we just need to help others understand that there is much more to us than the bad passport photo.