“BTW your piece on the crying phony was way too kind,” my business owner pal Tom texted me about my post a couple weeks back about “the crying CEO.”
My headline was, “With leaders like this, we don’t need babies.” I thought that was tough enough!
Reading a follow-up on the piece on CEOs and vulnerability in The New York Times (thanks for the steer, Dain Dunston), it hit me, what has always bugged me about this “trend” toward CEOs being “vulnerable.” And how we’re always hearing that “vulnerability is a sign of strength.”
Vulnerability is not a “sign” of strength. It is, instead, a privilege of strength.
To wit: If the people I work with have come to see that I will persevere through the hardest things that happen to me and our organization—then they will allow me to be “vulnerable,” sharing my feelings and even doubts with them. In fact, they will often appreciate that.
Yes, it’s OK not to be OK—just as long as people trust that you’re going to be OK in the end. And that trust must be earned over time. Over a long time.
It is a great advantage to be able to show max humanity, as that bonds people more closely with you, and allows them to bond more closely with one another.
But “vulnerability” does not make you strong—in your colleagues’ eyes or in reality. Being strong allows you to be vulnerable.
It’s a subtle difference … unless you don’t know it, in which case it’s the difference between being an authentic leader and a “crying phony.”