Beyond the Bulletproof Image – How Being Vulnerable Makes You Strong
I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve worked with over the course of my career who believe that to be a credible, strong leader, you must come across as infallible, having all the answers – being rock solid. Newer leaders often feel as though they do not have a lot to offer in meetings and other gatherings because they do not know much yet. Out of fear of being exposed as someone who is not on top of their game, many times they remain silent – when in actuality the questions they would otherwise ask out of sheer curiosity and desire to learn could become the very impetus the organization needs to see things with fresh eyes and recognize opportunities they previously missed.
On the other extreme, I occasionally meet with people who on the face of things have it all together. They are poised, polished, and seemingly the picture of perfection. And they are often stumped at why they have been unable to motivate and inspire their people to new levels of performance and success. Initially, I sometimes find it difficult to connect to people like this and often go on to learn while gathering feedback for them that others do too.
I think it’s because the rock solid persona they project is rarely a true representation of who they really are. And before you can engage the hearts and minds of others as visionary leaders do, you must be able to connect with them – and they must feel a connection to you.
The problem with needing to have a bulletproof image is that very few, if any, people in this world are really “bulletproof.” In fact, if ever there were a trait or characteristic that is shared by virtually the whole human race, it is that we all have fears, insecurities and misgivings. We all make mistakes. We all know far less than we would like to or even have the capacity for. These things that make us humble and vulnerable connect us to each other in profound ways that are often overlooked and/or unacknowledged.
Think of the people in your life who have inspired you over the years. Maybe it was someone close to you – like a parent, teacher, or coach. Or perhaps it was a public or historical figure. If you try to identify the qualities in that person that really made an impact on you, it is likely not so much what they achieved in life as what they had to overcome in order to do it – disappointment, failure, challenge, fear, perhaps even an illness or handicap of some kind.
So it seems there may be something to gain by allowing these little things we have been conditioned to hide from each other to be a bit more visible. First of all, it takes a lot of pressure off of you. When we learn to take ourselves a little less seriously and give ourselves permission to not know everything, we move beyond worrying so much about what everyone else thinks of us to be truly present with other people – to really listen to them, to be curious about their unique perspectives, ideas, and insights. The emphasis goes from having to showcase our knowledge, competence and stature to learning from others and helping them to feel valued and appreciated.
Secondly, when we are less guarded about our fears, misgivings and challenges, we realize that these things are nothing to be ashamed of. Because in spite of them, we have risen up to the challenges in our lives. And sometimes the most inspiring thing we can do for others is help them to realize that though they are in the thick of their own fear, they too can find something within them that will allow them to bounce back or rise up – to recognize a strength they didn’t realize they had – and to use it in a way that truly benefits not just themselves, but everyone around them.
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” ~ Socrates
Implications for Real Leaders
The Real Leader Revolution is bringing to a head the need for businesses to better tap the power and potential that exists within the people who are the lifeblood of their organizations. This energy, when properly catalyzed and harnessed, will create the kind of value that earns loyal customers, increased market share and strong, sustainable profitability.
To find out more about how you can unleash this talent, energy and potential in your own organization (starting with yourself), sign up below to receive your copy of The Real Leader Revolution Manifesto as soon as it is released.