I had a great chat this morning with a partner of The Latimer Group’s. She and I discussed a number of components of great leadership in the 21st century, and one of the ideas we kicked around was the concept of leadership “vulnerability.” I was struck by the idea enough to write a quick post here.
We live in an entirely connected world now, where we have so many opportunities to communicate and share and, well, connect! The world feels a lot smaller than it used to, and we know a lot more about each other than ever before, for better or for worse.
When you think about how connected we all are, and then add in the ideas that people are more opinionated than ever before (we are), better informed than ever before (we are), and less likely to blindly trust leadership (we definitely are), all of the sudden you realize how important it is for leaders to be human.
21st century people are much more likely to get excited about following someone they feel connected to, who they can understand, who they feel they can speak to (even if they’ll never actually cross paths). We want to feel like we understand the leader, and the leader would probably understand us if we ever had a chance to speak directly.
In a different world, not that long ago, people would more blindly follow organizational leadership, even if they didn’t like or feel connected to the person. Because that is just what you did. You do what you are told. But not anymore. Maybe it started with Watergate, but wherever it started, people think for themselves more, trust less easily, want to do what they want to do, and question authority more quickly. The distant leader who never shows emotion, who never admits fault, who doesn’t attempt to connect with anyone, may have succeeded 20 or 30 years ago. But that leader will struggle today.
Leaders need some level of technical expertise in their field, they have to have a certain depth of knowledge. But in the 21st century, leaders also need to be able to connect with other human beings. We crave connection, and good leaders better be able to deliver. Don’t be afraid to be human. Don’t be afraid to admit you are wrong once in a while. Don’t be afraid to show a little vulnerability. Those traits will demonstrate courage and will make you more likeable and people will feel more connected to you. They’ll be much more willing to follow your lead.
Have a great day.
Photo: Katherine Pangaro