Honesty and vulnerability can increase your leadership influence. Who decided that leaders must have all the answers, always be right, and never be vulnerable?
I’d like to know who created this paradigm that has driven far too many leaders out of leadership.
Leadership is exhausting. Pretending is significantly more exhausting.
My Leadership Journey
I grew up watching leaders who always appeared supremely confident. It didn’t take me long to assign a connection between confident leadership and competent leadership. Granted, as a young leader just entering the marketplace, I didn’t see these confident leaders behind the scenes. Mostly I saw the public leadership moments — the ones where leaders made speeches and pronounced bold new agendas.
It was easy to associate leadership with boldness, unwavering direction, and complete comprehension.
This perspective on leadership is problematic, mainly because we can only see external confidence in others while inwardly seeing our shortcomings. I saw leaders seemingly with all the answers, but I knew I didn’t have all the answers. I saw leaders who were so externally confident, but internally, I didn’t feel confident. I saw leaders appearing strong while internally knowing I felt weak.
Over time, seeing only the public side of others while knowing the internal struggles in me created a leadership identity crisis.
The psychological term is imposter syndrome. I am a natural-born leader. As a leader, I assumed from what I saw from other leaders that I must always have an answer, be ever bold, and project confidence no matter what. That’s what leaders do … until they emotionally can no longer.
I’ll save all the details for another article another day, but all this pretending, faux confidence, and needing to be correct eventually caught up to me. Emotionally, I was finished. The burnout I experienced wasn’t from overwork but from over pretending. Wondering if you belong or have what it takes to lead well is emotionally crushing.
Years of pretending forced me to take a month off to do some hard, internal, heart work. That month taught me so much about my past, present, and what I hoped to be true in my future. My month off led to a year of learning and, more importantly, unlearning. I had to learn myself – my true self. I was a natural leader for sure, but I had to learn some deeper leadership lessons.
Great Leaders Don’t:
- Have all the answers.
- Always know what to do.
- Refuse to acknowledge fear.
- Pretend to be in command of every situation.
You can be real or really pretend, but you can’t do both.