I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately. I had a great (though way too short) conversation with my friend Susan yesterday about what it takes to be an authentic leader. Susan was my boss several years ago and has been my friend ever since. (She told me that the day I walked in for the interview, she knew almost instantly that we would be kindred spirits and that she HAD to hire me.) Now we’re both bosses (in different organizations) and struggling with many of the same issues.
Susan and I have had similar experiences recently where we discovered that sometimes, to be good leaders, we have to take a big risk and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and exposed. Vulnerability is not normally associated with strong leadership. In fact, when we become leaders, we assume that our role is and will always be to be the strong one in the group. After all, a leader shouldn’t let weakness show, should they?
But sometimes, our greatest break-through comes the moment we admit to our team “I don’t have this all figured out” and then ask “can you help me?” After a long and often difficult road with my team in the last few years, that’s what eventually worked for me back in January. I had to be willing to say “look – this isn’t working and I feel like I have failed because I’ve tried everything and I no longer have any idea how to make it work” before they softened their stances and finally contributed meaningful ideas to an otherwise rather stagnant circle. It was a risk (because admitting my weakness opened the door for them to point out even more weaknesses), but it was worth it in the end.
It’s kind of counter-intuitive, but there’s wisdom to it, and I have to keep learning and re-learning it. Admitting weakness can be the most effective way to open the door to strength. (Rather biblical, isn’t it?)