Leaders reveal the truth of who they are.

Leadership is enhanced when we are willing to live more in line with our created state of vulnerability by revealing the truth of who we are. ~Curt Thompson

We’re all human. I know, I’m stating the obvious. Even though it’s obvious, it’s also baffling that many leaders exert a great deal of effort trying to convince themselves and others that they are the exception.

I find Curt Thompson’s perspective especially intriguing because he’s a board certified psychiatrist with expertise in interpersonal neurobiology. His view on leadership is from the perspective of how human development and functioning is a product of the relationship between the body, mind, and relationships. What I would call the real science of leadership.

Enabling with Intention

Thompson defines leadership as “enabling, with intention, those who are relationally close, and for whom the leader has responsibility, to flourish.”

Let’s unpack that definition. Enabling—which could also mean facilitating, empowering, supporting—with intention. He’s chosen to emphasize with intention. I take that to mean it’s not something that magically happens simply because of the leader’s “position.” It happens because of focused effort.

The next phrase, “those who are relationally close.” I notice the suggestion of relationally close as opposed to close within a position of hierarchy. Consequently, I take that to mean that in order to lead someone you have to really know them.

The final phrase of his definition, “for whom the leader has responsibility, to flourish.” That doesn’t mean help them to just “get by,” or “check off the duties on their job description.” I think it means to help them do, or become, even more than they thought possible.

Reveal the Truth of Who We Are

With that definition of leadership in mind, Thompson goes on to tell us that “Leadership is enhanced when we are willing to live more in line with our created state of vulnerability by revealing the truth of who we are. And eventually that truth will include those areas in which we don’t have the answers or when we need help. This is especially true when we are in relatively higher positions.”

I realize that for many leaders reading this, that last paragraph may have stung just a little (or a lot). Reveal the areas in which we don’t have the answers or when we need help! Are you kidding me?! This gets back to my initial statement. We are all human. Even. Leaders.

Leadership really does get better when leaders are open about their “created state of vulnerability.”

Accountability Requires Vulnerability

Here’s another paradox. A few weeks ago I wrote about accountability, something that seems to be a challenge in nearly every organization I encounter. A very important part of accountable behavior is getting feedback, asking questions when you don’t have the answers and asking for help. Why should that be any different just because someone has moved into a higher position? Truly accountable behavior, in my opinion, requires vulnerability, regardless of position.

Leaders: Are you willing to live more in line with your created state of vulnerability by revealing the truth of who you are?

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