I have a good friend who cannot stand fake people. Her philosophy is, be anything you want to be, just be real. She has all types of friends, with all different background and interests, but she can spot a fake from a mile away. And once you are insincere with her, she writes you off. She has no need for you. Want to make sure she writes you off? Act like you are invincible, with no flaws, which to her is really the largest form of insincerity.
Although her philosophy could be a lesson in leadership on giving people a second chance, I think her viewpoint also gives pause in considering authentic leadership.
Keeping it real leads to leaders people want to follow.
Consider these quotes:
“…the act of facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty.” From David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
Why? Because it humbles us and makes us truly human. It gives us something we can learn from. We like people who are real, and we can get on board with following them. Invincible people really aren’t all that fun because they seem to make us, as individuals, feel more flawed than we already are. The truth is, we are all flawed and we have all made mistakes.
“There is an important lesson in that for battles with all kinds of giants. The powerful and the strong are not always what the seem.” From David and Goliath
Do we like the giants more when we learn they aren’t always what they seem because they make them more real and more human?
“I used to be afraid that if I was authentic I might take a hit, but now I know that being real means I will take a hit.”From Love Does
There is a fine line between having being able to cast a vision and lead people towards the implementation of a mission and acting like you know it all and are invincible.
I think the leaders that are most effective can cast that vision and mission to inspire people towards action, but they do it with the humility that comes from acknowledging they are human too. This can be done by exposing their weaknesses and, quite possibly, taking what the world sees as weaknesses and using them as strengths.
We’d rather root for or follow the underdog, David (as Gladwell points out in his book David and Goliath) than Goliath any day. But why? I think mainly because he appears to be more human or real than Goliath does and we can get behind someone we can relate to.
When has a leader expressing humanness made you want to follow him or her more?