How to Create a Team of Leaders by Shifting Inward


Step Back

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.

Partners at Shift180, Barry and Jeff present their unique approach to maximizing performance in their new book, The Power of Vulnerability: How to Create a Team of Leaders by Shifting Inward.  I recently spoke with them after reading the book, to talk about their views on leadership culture and vulnerability.


Understand the Power of Vulnerability

Why is vulnerability misunderstood?

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.


In what ways can a leader create an environment of safety to allow team members to be vulnerable?

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.”

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe


It All Starts With Safety

Author and speaker Simon Sinek is a gifted storyteller. In this talk, Simon zeroes in on an often overlooked aspect of leadership: safety.

Simon recounts the story of an ambush and its powerful lesson. When Army Captain William Swenson and his men were under heavy fire in Afghanistan, it was all caught on camera. As Swenson is seen helping an injured soldier onto a helicopter, you see Swenson lean over and kiss the injured soldier’s forehead before running back into a battle.


“Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.” –Simon Sinek


Build a Culture That Encourages Selflessness

Why did he do this? Sinek’s first hypothesis was that the military somehow attracted selfless people. After further investigation, Sinek concluded it was the environment that elevated behavior. The culture and values of the organization were strong enough to encourage selflessness.

We will put our lives at risk to save others because of trust. That means that trust increases safety. When we feel safe, we are empowered. When we are not acting under threat, we are able to give our best, to be more creative, to be more productive. More trust = more safety = more productivity and creativity. It’s a formula that all leaders should study.

Trust and safety may be difficult to measure, but they are essential for optimal performance.


“Good leaders make you feel safe.” –Simon Sinek


Without safety, instead of focusing on outside threats, we are turned inside. When we feel safe, we are able to work together for a common cause and fulfill the leader’s vision.