Two Truths and a Lie

March 13, 2019

Normally, I don’t think about business and party games in the same conversation, but this time, I just can’t help myself.

I just returned home from our first ever Lead Her Up Retreat for women business leaders. The event was successful beyond our expectations, and it has me thinking overtime about the whole idea of leadership. For three days, more than 30 successful women business leaders explored how to lead themselves, their teams and their legacies.

One day over lunch, the women at my table decided to play “2 Truths and a Lie” to get to know each other a little better.

And it got me thinking.

There are a lot of lies we tell ourselves about leadership. Lies that make us think we’re not cut out for leadership…or that there’s some magic “right way” to be a leader.

I’m inviting you to my virtual lunch table right now. Let’s play Two Truths and a Lie about leadership.

Ready?  Here we go. See if you can find the lie.

#1 – Leadership is more about who you are than about what you do. Leadership is not about place or position. You can be a leader from anywhere in an organization. Your values, attitudes and beliefs shape your actions and decisions, determining how successful you are as a leader. Leadership is a calling, not just a job. Leadership is about who you are at the core—your values, beliefs, attitudes. How you behave as a leader is shaped by those inner truths. To be a good leader, you need to focus as much on the inner work of personal development as you do on the outer work of team building.

 

#2 – The leader needs to be the strongest person on the team.

For a team to be successful, it needs to be strong. The leader must set the example. Being able to weather adversity, overcome barriers, and navigate changing expectations is an essential element of leadership. A leader who appears weak or vulnerable loses the respect and trust of the team. The collective courage of the team is weakened if the leader shows any sign of fallibility or vulnerability. No matter what goes on, never let them see you sweat.

 

#3 – Great leaders are also great followers.

Most leaders did not begin their professional lives as leaders. They started out as followers and, if they were lucky, learned how to be good leaders by observing successful leaders at work. They learned how to be part of a team, how to put the group’s needs ahead of personal gain, and how to bring out the best in others. If you want to learn how to be a great leader, become a good follower…and a good student.

 

Did you spot the lie?

 

It’s #2 – The leader needs to be the strongest person on the team.

Traditional wisdom in business has been that vulnerability is a sign of weakness and weakness is bad. Brene Brown has turned that concept on its head in her recent book Dare to Lead: Brave Work, Tough Conversations, Open Hearts.

Brown argues that the armored “stiff upper lip” leader doesn’t truly serve the team or make it more successful. She says that there is a difference between being “strong” and having courage. It’s courage that’s required for leadership.

A leader’s courage lies in the willingness to be vulnerable…to own the hard truths and have the tough conversations.

“Vulnerability is… the only path to courage and it is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, trust, empathy,” according to Brown. She tells us that vulnerability is the key to authenticity in leadership. When leaders are vulnerable, they are more open and emotionally available to the team. This emotional availability builds trust, expands possibilities and boosts team performance.

The next time you’re tempted to put on that armor, hide your doubts or gloss over mistakes, try being transparent and vulnerable instead. Enroll the team in finding solutions together and see how much further you’ll go.

Go forth and do great things,

Martha Hanlon and Chris Williams

Martha & Chris