It may be counterintuitive, but according to Barry Kaplan and Jeff Manchester — who have decades of experience as entrepreneurs and advisers to hundreds of companies — the the best way to lead is to step back. The more that you as a leader open your heart, reveal your fears and show your authentic self, the deeper the connections among your team members will be, and the more the team will achieve.
We are taught and then hard-wired to believe that showing vulnerability is a weakness. The fear, of course, is that if we demonstrate vulnerability, others will be able to take advantage of us. This, however, is far from the truth. The reality is that, by sharing our vulnerability, we lay the groundwork for truly connecting with others – which is incredibly powerful. We need to relearn that vulnerability is gateway to authenticity, connection and ultimately power.
When is it wrong to be vulnerable and can you be too vulnerable?
Despite the power vulnerability can bring, if you’re not in a safe environment where you can leverage its power, exhibiting vulnerability may be a mistake. Safety is a necessary predicate to being able to open up, show up and co-create trust.
Leaders play a key role in creating this safe space, particularly by role modeling. As a leader, it is up to you to step in first. Show up with your real story that will disrupt the typical pattern of hiding behind the veil. By taking action, you are giving your team a real case-study of how — and more importantly, why — it works.
“The HEIGHT of a team’s performance compared to its potential is directly related to the DEPTH of connection among its members.”
Is today’s generational divide greater than the ones that have come previously?
Yes, the difference surrounds how this generation was raised versus others. The first difference is technology. The rapid change in it and the connectivity in the world and dynamics of social media have changed the nature of who we are and how we interact. We have focused less on the interpersonal and more on the phone or device as a means of communication together with the immediacy of action. This generation wants action and now. Millennials are not schooled in relationship-building skills, so they are not wired to connect. This is the biggest difference. Instead of dealing with the differences, we are just complaining that millennials are not good enough.
The biggest gap involves perspective and myths. Each side is completely steeped in their views that the other perspective is flawed. For example:
Do the following statements about millennials ring mostly true or mostly false?
They have a sense of entitlement, and expect everything now!
They’re lazy and don’t want to work hard like we did; work/ life balance is more important than hard work.
They are disloyal and jump ship if they are not engaged or growing.
They need feedback all the time, 24/7/365. (“Please tell me how great I am. Every day. Twice.”)
They have different career goals from non-millennials.
They want everything digital.
They don’t deal well with authority.
Here’s the answer: It was a trick question.
All these are true . . . and false . . . and none of that matters. They are assumptions—myths, really—and there is no right or wrong when it comes to them. That’s because while myths, assumptions, stereotypes—whatever you want to call them—may be false as blanket statements (“all Americans are overweight” and “all fashion models are anorexic”), they come from a place of partial truth (more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight and many models are unrealistically thin). But who wants to be viewed through the lens of myths like these?
Consider the quiz from the other side. Do the following statements about non-millennial managers ring mostly true or mostly false?
They obey the Golden Rule: “I’ve got the gold, I make the rules!”
They are only in it for the money.
They are inflexible and don’t like change; they’re stuck in their ways.
They are so not tech savvy.
They don’t care about their teams or people.
They are “hard graders” and couldn’t care less about recognizing others.
They are afraid of nontraditional approaches.
They are willing to trade the pursuit of true passion for stability.
If you are a non-millennial manager, does this sound like you? Or sound like how you want to be perceived in this world? Well, these are the things most millennials say about us. How much is true? Not much. Just as you are guilty of creating myths that lead to disconnect and frustrations with millennials, they are guilty of perpetuating myths about you.
Work from the Inside-Out
What do you mean when you say to “work from the inside out?”
The secret to job and life satisfaction is internal self-awareness and growth. Youth in general is a time where, if we can understand ourselves, we can start to create a journey to build great careers and lives. Millennials in particular require training on how to understand and accomplish learning about themselves to impact the world. We believe the secret to success is predicated on understanding yourself to impact others, and they need help to learn how to engage themselves in the world and subsequently to create a talent and career track. If we can have them connect to their inside motivation and goals, we can universally have them succeed along their journey.
“Focus on where you want to go; not on what you fear.” -Tony Robbins
Most leaders hear this advice but don’t know what it means, what to do about it, or how it impacts everyday life in the office.
Becoming an authentic leader is more than a lofty goal. It’s an essential part of your effectiveness. My own experience is that it’s often authenticity that sets the great leaders apart. We don’t always know why we are inspired by certain individuals, but I think it is this characteristic that appeals to us at a deep level.
What I particularly like about her new book is that, as the subtitle of the book suggests, she provides tools to help with the goal.
Lead with Authenticity
How would you define authenticity in leadership?
Both authenticity and leadership are important in defining authentic leadership. Leadership is about getting things done that are both difficult and important in the context of a specific organization or more broadly any human community. Authenticity adds another layer which is being true to your own nature AS you are getting things done that are difficult and important.
What’s the relationship between authenticity and leadership?
Our typical way of thinking about authenticity is to just be yourself, and it will all turn out better. Of course, be yourself. It sounds so simple. The first problem with that is you are not that simple. We humans are just not that simple. There is no one solid self like a concrete block. Our hardwired adaptive traits as humans mean that we behave differently under different situations and circumstances. Leadership requires this adaptability. But you have to find ways to communicate who you are as you are leading effectively. More importantly, you have to figure out ways to stay in touch with what is important to you as you are in the thick of getting things done. Paying attention to the inner game and outer game at the same time is a lot easier said than done. Said another way, it is easier to just be authentic or just figure out how to get things done that are difficult and important. But the daily question is how do we do both at the same time?
“Authenticity is knowing, and acting on, what is true and real inside yourself…” –Robert Terry
Why do you think there is currently so much interest in leadership authenticity?
Trust in big institutions like our government here in the US is low. I also think that the modern era poses some challenges with upping the ante on aspects of authenticity like transparency. Like it or not, we are in an age of transparency. The boundaries between private life and work or with private life in general are not what they used to be.
Leadership is never a value-neutral concept. To say someone is a leader means we have high expectations. A lot of this interest comes down to people wanting our leaders to step up and make things happen that are good for the whole. Any robust discussion of authenticity takes you fully into the thicket of human moral psychology as authenticity is so not a value-neutral construct.
“Fear is not your friend if you want a culture of authenticity.” –Karissa Thacker