If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I thrive on pushing my mind and body to the edge:
- Doing yoga classes for 30 days.
- Drastically changing my diet to vegan/vegetarian.
- Scaling unthinkable crazy hills.
“What’s the point of these challenges?” I’m frequently asked. I always answer with a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”
This weekend I organized a Meetup.com hike to one of my favorite places, Highland Forest. Something happened on the hike that exposed one of my flaws.
Highland, located 60 miles southeast of Syracuse, is known as the “Adirondacks of Central NY.” The oldest park in Onondaga County has 20 miles of year-round trails, six square miles of rugged mountainous terrain, and over 2,700 acres of gawjuss forest.
I was joined by new friends Dave, Adina, Tom, and John on Saturday’s nine mile trek on the Main Trail.
About a half mile into our adventure, I paused to tell the group, on occasion, I take a wrong turn and get off track. “Don’t assume I’m going the right way. Always be looking for the orange markers on the trees designating the Main Trail.” I said.
I can’t tell you how many times I got lost in the beauty of Highland. I’m either preoccupied with listening to my iPod or enjoying the magnificence of this unique place.
There have been several times when I took a right when I should have taken a left. I’ll tell ya, it’s a scary experience being in the middle of nowhere and not knowing which way to turn. (The last time I got lost I purchased a compass. Now I can’t find it. Go figure. 😉 )
Sure enough, after letting my team know I occasionally lose my direction, 10 minutes later, I took a left when I should have gone right. “Steve! Steve! You’re going the wrong way!” they said with a laugh. That’s when I slapped the top of my forehead with the base of my right hand. “See, I told ya!” I said grinning ear to ear.
On this day I was the so called, “leader.” I let my constituents know in advance I’m not perfect. Why would I do that?
I care about my team. I was concerned about their well being. My focus was getting everyone to the destination, safe and sound.
In the book “Good To Great,” author Jim Collins discovered Level Five leaders, those that were best in class leading great companies, had a blend of extreme personal humility and an unrelenting resolve towards their personal and professional life.
Humility. Understanding it’s not about you. Realizing it’s ok to show the team your strengths and weaknesses.
Your people don’t want to work for a super hero. Someone who’s perfect. That type of leader is unapproachable.
Your people want to know they’re working for a human being.
Humans are flawed. Show them everything. Warts and all. If you do, the team will run through a brick wall for you.
In the comment section below, describe a time when you saw a leader show a weakness or they committed a faux pas. What was the experience like?
I have no sense of direction (well, I do have a sense of where I’m headed), but I get lost driving, hiking, running…. I have many stories… Including the time I realized that the “circles” in Central Park are not exactly circles.
I believe humility and exposing flaws is vital in great leaders. It’s amazing how many leaders try to look “perfect.” I agree, people want to work for real people.
Ha! If the circles weren’t circles, what were they?
When I get lost, I always stop and ask for directions. Atypical for a male.
Real people make real leaders.
Thanks Karin. Have a great week!
I enjoyed the post. The message I picked up is that we are only as good as the team. When we know each other’s weaknesses we can carry things through and reach our destination.
As ever, Martin
Agreed. We’re only as good as the team.
Thanks for stopping by Martin.
Great post, Steve.
You are so right about a good leader.
You also make me smile!
I’m glad I make you happy! 😉
Thanks for the challenge to be real. I heard someone say once, “Don’t be afraid to tell others your faults. They already know them.”
I think we tend to fool ourselves thinking we can bluff our way through, when really, if we’ll invite others in, like you described, as a team we’ll accomplish considerably more than if we shouldered the burden ourselves.
Thanks for the thoughtful post.
Most times I use real life examples.
Lots of people fooling themselves in leadership positions.
Here’s my take on your hike.
By telling others to help you navigate, you kept them actively engaged in the process.
By explaining your directional shortcomings, you humbled yourself to them, and in so doing, also elevated their feelings of importance.
Finally, by listening when they pointed out a mistake, you let them know you welcomed and respected their input.
Sounds like a good leader to me!
Susan, thanks for the comments.
Your analysis is perfect.
When I’m leading a team, whether it be formal or informal, I remain authentic. What you see is what you get.
Kudos to you for pushing yourself to the edge. Admirable endeavors.
It takes a humble leaders to expose their “warts and all.”
I enjoyed reading this post.
I have lots of blemishes!
Great article Steve! I’ve been thinking similarly lately. I agree that people don’t want to work for perfect specimens. The human element is key and of course it extends to family and friendships as well.
Diane! What a nice surprise seeing you here. 🙂
For some reason, most leaders don’t like looking vulnerable. They’re missing out on a big opportunity to connect.
Come back again Diane!
A very wise person once said to me, “always live in truth.” This is exactly what you are describing Steve. A true leader will always live in truth, be authentic. Otherwise, how can he/she lead a team anywhere?
Steve, I like your brevity. Truth.
Followers know if the leader is transparent or not.
The leader is always being watched.