"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway
Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their kids, staff, customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those people face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. Stop talking, seriously stop talking and just listen.
"The only way you connect to other people is through your stories. It’s time to create some new stories” - Linda Edgecombe
After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to connect, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you're telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video. No one has ever told me that they remember the 10 steps to a better life… they will repeat a story I have told them. Years later.
"I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I've become. If I had, I'd have done it a lot earlier." -Oprah Winfrey
Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social media has blurred that line. Tomorrow's leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.
"As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth." -John Whittier
Pssst: No one has it together, so stop pretending to appear that you do. There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night - unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one. The truth is so easy to live with.
5. Team Playing
"Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds." -SEAL Team Saying
No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and making it not just OK to make mistakes, but expected. My mentor and first boss Jill Bradshaw Green taught me, when things go great, let your team take the credit, and when we screwed up, she took the hit and protected us from her superiors. This way of leading allowed us, (young professionals) to reach, risk and be innovative. And interestingly, this way of leading was never spoken about, we just observed her lead this way.
6. All leaders have vulnerabilities.
The greatest leaders have the self-awareness to view their vulnerabilities as strengths rather than weaknesses. Too often, we try to disguise our misgivings. We’ve been taught that to expose our flaws is to damage our leadership status. In my book “Breaking Busy – Finding Peace in the Chaos” I quote author and researcher, Dr. Brene Brown, ‘this could not be further from the truth.’ Brown believes uncertainty and emotional exposure are essential to a successful professional journey. “Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity,” she says. “There can be zero innovation without vulnerability.” We’ve become so familiar with the traditional mold of leadership and power that we refuse to admit our failures and uncertainties. But how can these experiences be used to expand leadership abilities instead of diminishing them?
- Be Mindful of Your Vulnerabilities In order to unlock the true potential of vulnerability, you need to explore how vulnerability can be used as your greatest strength. This means becoming more self-aware. It’s about reflecting on the experiences in which you feel most vulnerable, and finding ways to build from these emotions. How do you respond to situations of risk? What are you doing to harness these uncertainties?
- Use Vulnerability to Build Connections True leaders are influential in their roles through building connections with others, rather than through demonstrating positional power. We all have aspects of ourselves we are afraid to share or expose. But having the courage to be open about these emotions allows you to form the deep relationships that can be transformational in your role as a leader. It’s important to show your team who you really are, without editing vulnerable experiences. Rather than wasting energy upholding secrets, revel in the freedom that comes with revealing your failures and sharing what you have learned from these occurrences.
- View Vulnerability as a Measure of Courage Dr. Brown explains vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage. In the 12 years she has been collecting data, she says, she cannot find a single story of courage that was not completely underpinned by vulnerability. When you are able to be vulnerable, you give others permission to do the same. You create a culture where people take accountability for failure, learn from it, and move on. But first, you must have the courage to be imperfect as a leader, meaning you not only accept your mistakes, but you also declare them as they occur.
- Explore the Creativity that Stems from Vulnerability Leaders need to make a leap in recognizing vulnerability as the birthplace of creativity and innovation, says Brown. “Without vulnerability, how can we innovate? If failure’s not an option, innovation’s not an option.” Leaders are most vulnerable in situations where they are challenging the status quo. They’re looking at a traditional method of performance and seeking an opportunity to make it better. Failure is a risk any time you try something new – it’s what makes innovation uncomfortable. “We’ve lost our tolerance for discomfort and vulnerability,” Brown says. “But it’s where the juice happens – it’s where all the good stuff happens. And in order for us to get it back, we have to really practice [being vulnerable].
- ” What have you done to encourage vulnerability today? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
Linda Edgecombe, CSP
Follow me on Twitter and join me on Facebook!