Take a look back at the best leaders you’ve had the pleasure of working with, and I can be sure there is one word that stands out as to why they have lead well. Leadership takes so many facets to be effective. Strength of character, transparency, consistency, decisiveness, listening – and the list goes on. But I would argue that the single, most important word that defines a great leader is this; CONNECTION.
When I look back at the leaders I have worked with, the ones that have inspired me to give everything I have got have been the ones that are able to connect. Let’s take an example that we can all relate to and compare two leaders. Richard Branson and Gina Rinehart. Who would you rather work for? Both are hugely successful in their own way, but which one would you rather pull an all-nighter for? Who would you feel most connected to? Who inspires you to greater things?
And what is the difference? Connection. You can relate to Branson more easily because he is an open book. Rinehart is closed, secretive. Branson is not relatable because you both own private islands. He connects with his people because he lets you into his world. Disclaimer: I have never worked for Rinehart and I imagine she is actually quite connected to her people but the public profile of each person helps prove my point.
So how does this relate to vulnerability? How does vulnerability lead to connection and therefore better leadership? If you have participated in one of my presentation skills lectures you would have watched the Brene Brown Ted Talk on the power of vulnerability. If you haven’t, you should. It could change your life. In the talk Brown starts from the principle that “connection is why we are here.” It is how we are wired neurologically and biologically.
The rest of the talk breaks down like this
- Shame is the fear of not connecting (think about this if it doesn’t make sense right away)
- This is underpinned by excruciating vulnerability
- The most connected people are those who have a strong sense of worthiness; of love and belonging
- Brene classifies these as whole-hearted people
- They have the courage to be imperfect and compassion to be kind to themselves and then others
- So their connection comes as a result of authenticity – THEY FULLY EMBRACE VULNERABILITY
- Whilst there is so much fear in vulnerability, it is also the birth place of joy, creativity, belonging, connection and love
Recently we saw Dara Khosrowshahi make the move from CEO of Expedia, after a long tenure with the company, to become CEO of scandal filled Uber. In his public statement to his former employees he stated “I have to tell you, I am scared”.
I love this guy. He is arguably one of the most successful, connected leaders of our time and he is starting his new role with these words, I am scared. Put another way it could be translated as “I am a person” or “I am just like you”. What a cracking way to kick into his next leadership role. One with massive challenges that only time will tell if he can overcome. Either way, I know I’d like to work for Dara.