The One Principle Every Leader Needs to Know During a Time of Uncertainty
The more opportunities I have gotten to peek behind the curtain. The more disenchanted I have become with this myth of the stoic leader…
For the past two years, I’ve gathered weekly in a circle of men who I deeply respect through a group called Evryman. We speak about our human experience, we explore our own emotions, and we work to establish a definition of manhood that serves us, the people we love, and our greater communities.
One of the principles we continue to fall back on is leading with vulnerability. We are often told the story of the stoic leader. We see him or her in our history books, in our favorite novels, on the big screen, and maybe even in the boardroom or on the news. We see that person who is unemotional, pragmatic, strong. That person who seemingly always knows what to do. That person who inspires blind trust with few words and comes through to save the day.
The more that I have sat in this circle. The more opportunities I have gotten to peek behind the curtain. The more disenchanted I have become with this myth of the stoic leader. When we shield our emotions we separate ourselves from those whom we wish to lead. Not only do we take on the impossible burden of always having the right answer, but we also create a structure of blind trust and dependence. When you mask your fear, people can not see you acting bravely despite fear’s presence. Then, when they feel fear, they also feel shame. Fear is not paralyzing, it is a given. However, shame and the deep belief that your decisions can not be trusted. THAT is the paralyzing and compounding emotion.
I believe that the best leaders do not always have the right answers. The best leaders inspire other people to lead. They do not mask fear to create distance, they use fear as a tool for connection and empathy. The reality is that each of us is going to need to step up. We will be asked to make hard decisions for ourselves, our family, our companies, and our communities and we will be terrified of taking the wrong action. And yet, we will act. We will keep going because that’s what we do. That’s what we ALL do. Not just the people at the top of the corporate structures or government bodies, but the working single moms, the MTA employees, the ER nurses, and people like you and me.
I’ll start by saying, I’m scared. I will not add why, but I acknowledge my fear, my shame, and my uncertainty. I feel it at this moment as I write these words and I give it space to breathe. I do not run from it, I do not hide it, I do not mask it, it is my teacher and its presence is mine to explore. And yet, I act. Either small actions like calling my friends to strengthen our community, meditating with discipline, putting together an emergency plan for my family, or writing in hope that my words can touch just one person. Or, more significant actions, like asking what role I can play in helping our larger communities, our country, and our world get through this.
If ever there was a time to realize that what we focus our time and energy on matters, now is it. The pandemic has put a magnifying glass on all of the greatest challenges we face as a country and a global community. There is a time to go inward and make sure that you and your family are safe and grounded, and once you’ve found your footing it is time to grab a bucket and ask how can I help. What unique gifts do you have to bring to those who need you the most? How can you fully acknowledge your fear, and still help your neighbor, your coworker, your friends, your community? There will be no knight in shining armor who will guide us to the other side. We will get through this because we will all step up. We will surprise ourselves by just how freaking powerful we are, and through it, we will build a world that serves ALL of us.
In the words of MP, KEEP GOING.