Welcome to my latest edition of my Reflections on Leadership article series, my weekly reflections on what it means to be a great leader. I hope that these thoughts can help you with your own leadership development journey.
My mission for Operation Melt is to help you melt away all of the obstacles to achieving your goals, not just your fitness goals. So, helping us all become better leaders is fully aligned with that mission. Maybe this will help achieve the Operation Melt vision…
To create a world where goals never die of loneliness.
Thank you for reading and please feel free to share your perspective on this topic, my Reflections on Leadership series or anything else via a comment on this post, a share on social media or message me directly.
Leaders Get Naked
Ok, not like that!
But true leaders are not afraid to show vulnerability in front of their people.
Recently one of my favorite restaurants closed completely unexpectedly. This is a restaurant that I frequented and we ere there 2 or 3 days per week for dinner, lunch, brunch or just for drinks. I have been going for years and the people at this restaurant were like family to me.
As you may imagine they were WAY more of a family to each other. So an unexpected closure was a major blow to this family for many reasons. The staff was very surprised, hurt and sad by the sudden loss of this family.
Out of all of the people who were angry, sad and hurt by the closure, the manager was probably the most upset. He is one of those amazing leaders whose people love him because he cares for them so deeply. He is tirelessly passionate about high quality and an exceptional customer experience while also dedicated to the people who provide it. So a sudden closure and displacement of the people is essentially his worst nightmare.
The staff decided to have a goodbye celebration at a local bar. Because we were regulars we were also invited to join. It was a great opportunity for closure and to wish the best to the staff who are now looking for a new job. We knew that this even would be sad, there would be tears and there would be lots of long faces. But there is no way we would miss it.
This celebration presented the manager with a few options. He could skip it and let the staff celebrate without him being able to say goodbye. He could attend and stay positive with a smile on his face. Or he could choose another path…
The path the manager chose was to attend and be honest with his emotions. He chose to go to this event, to cry when that was the emotion he was feeling and to be vulnerable in front of his team. He chose to be a great leader!
This experience really reinforced why his people loved him and were so lucky to have him as a boss. It also reinforced why the customer experience, the consistency and performance of the business was so solid for so many years!
Believe it or not, leaders are people too! People are complex, emotional and messy creatures and have choices. They can choose to hide their emotions and pretend they aren’t there or they can be honest and authentic.
I can tell you first hand that there is something endearing about a leader who is willing to show vulnerability in front of their people. Whether it be crying, getting angry or being unapologetically happy and excited, the honesty of an authentic leader can’t be beat. I can honestly say that I would rather follow the authentic vulnerable leader than the one who has the perfect façade. I have worked for both!
As described in 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, the willingness to be vulnerable is a key step in building trust in a team. Trust is the foundation of a high performing team. So, without vulnerability, you don’t get trust and without trust you don’t’ get solid results.
A few years ago I attending a leadership training course over the span of 5-6 months. One of the key exercises during this course was something called Leadership Brand. Your leadership brand tells the story of how you developed into the leader you are today. This usually involves facing adversity and sadness through your life. So leadership brands usually require leaders to face those trying moments and they are very emotional. So, the day that the class shares their leadership brands is a day without a dry eye in the group.
This exercise is valuable because it helps a leader discover his/her authentic self. The next step after this exercise is to share your brand with your team. That experience was very difficult and very rewarding. It show your team that you trust them enough to share this personal information. It shows your team that you are willing to be vulnerable with them. It also demonstrates that you have the leadership courage to be raw and real.
As a strong leader a show of authentic emotions in an emotional moment is NOT a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. In fact I unexpectedly cried in front of 35 young leaders when sharing my leadership brand!
Call to Action: write your leadership brand and share it with your team and others who look to you as a leader. Your vulnerability will help your team trust and respect you. Then, never feel ashamed to be authentic self and show emotion in front of your team. Emotions aren’t bad, they are human!