The Death of Veneer Identities

Amy-Jo Martin coined the term and analogy of Veneer Identities in her recent book, “Renegades Write the Rules“.

What is a Veneer Identity?

Two of the most common traditional veneers are dental and wood veneers:

Dental Veneer

Veneers in dentistry are a thin, artificial coating over a less attractive or weakened tooth.

Wood Veneer

In carpentry, a veneer is a thin layer of finer-looking, artificial wood on top of a lower-grade quality, composite or cheaper wood.

In both cases, the veneer is an artificial layer, masking the reality underneath. The underlying reality is something the owner does not want exposed to others. Over time, these artificial layers wear down and fall apart much more quickly than the real thing.

For centuries, leaders and organizations were able to uphold such veneers to their identity:

Corporate Veneers

Organizations masked the realities inside by plastering Public Relations material that claimed outstanding ethics, morals and interests in their people and consumers. The reality may be a singular focus on the investor, selling low quality goods while overextending employees.

Leadership Veneers

Leaders pretended to be exemplary people champions, speaking proudly of how they treat others in the public square. Meanwhile, employees, behind closed doors, receive frequent tongue lashings and rapidly decreasing benefits.

In both cases, there were limited opportunities for exposing the reality of coarser material beneath the surface. Thankfully, this has changed. The veneer identity has met it’s demise.

Veneer Identities

R.I.P. Corporate Veneers

Want to bury the real culture of your company’s backstabbing politics and singular focus on the investor? Good luck. Now there’s countless forums for prospective employees and consumers to see beneath the surface. Some examples:

  • Best and Worst Places to Work: recently released the top 50 Employers, based upon actual employee feedback.
  • Connections: Want to speak with someone directly for the real picture? Find a connection on LinkedIn. Each employee is likely to give you the real picture – not an artificial veneer.

R.I.P. Leadership Veneers

The beauty of social media is that it enables, empowers and really, demands greater servant leadership. A recent study claims that 82% of employees trust a company more when the CEO and leadership team communicate via social media (eMarketer). There are many reasons for this, including the removal of the veneer. The executive who does not utilize Social Media will find it more difficult to build support and a following.


Thankfully, the time has come to bury corporate and leadership veneers. Will there still be some roaming the earth? Of course, but like their walking dead zombie counterpart, these veneer identities will meander aimlessly with less and less support. Over time, a lack of human flesh to feed off will lead to their final demise.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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