Fresh fruits and vegetables. Do you buy fresh fruits and vegetables at a local market like the one pictured above? Perhaps you grow your own. Or buy them at a traditional grocery store. Regardless of how you acquire them, many of you appreciate their beauty and color. Me too.
No matter the exact geography, produce markets around the world are filled with fruits and vegetables that not only give essential nourishment to us, but aesthetic beauty as well. These fruits and vegetables (from a market in Seattle) look good, smell good, taste good and are even good for you.
With these fruits and vegetables, “what you see is what you get.” There are no games being played here. The wise shop owner will even cut one open and allow you to sample it before you part with your hard-earned cash. I don’t know about you, but I like fruits and vegetables. I like the way they look, smell, and taste. And I like some of the leadership lessons they can teach. Yes, I know I’m a bit weird as I see lessons in nearly everything but it helps provide symbolic reminders for me in the natural world in which we live.
The lesson I took from this fruit and vegetable stand was to be authentic, self-aware, and vulnerable. These leadership qualities are well-researched and documented. World-class leadership begins with self-awareness and ultimately ends with serving others of whom we’ve become aware. In this process, the world-class leader also hones their ability to be authentic and vulnerable.
Why does this matter? If you’re not authentic, open and vulnerable, you’re putting up walls, facades. If you do so, you’re not alone. It is quite common. Think about the people you see at work, or play, or church. When you ask how they’re doing, many say things like, “fine,” “okay,” or “great.” Now, I like positive people. And I believe it’s important to look on the bright side of things. I’m also an optimist who believes the glass is half full. But come on, how many people do you know whose day is “perfect” day after day after day?
I was reminded of this today at church during a story the pastor told about a friend who saw a Facebook post saying “Perfect weather. Beautiful wife. Amazing steaks.” The pastor’s friend said he couldn’t ever relate to the poster. In fact, he said he felt that his day was “Cloudy. Single. McDonalds.” After laughing, I realized how true this is for many. We operate at either extreme, either feeling sorry for ourselves or pretending everything is “perfect.” It’s time to realize that life in this world isn’t perfect, though some days can be pretty good. It’s time to realize that life in this world doesn’t “suck” though some days can be pretty bad.
You see them every day, people running around with barriers, a type of emotional façade. They won’t let people close. They’re afraid. They’re afraid to be vulnerable, authentic, open and transparent. They’re afraid to let others see the chinks in their armor.
These are often the loneliest people. They’ve believed their lies for so long, they don’t know fantasy from reality. They’re driven others away because they allow no one to get too close.
This came to mind when someone who had changed careers told me they hadn’t left a day too soon or a day too early. Wow! How cool is that! They worked for 40 years, changed careers about half way through, and to the day (the day!), they had perfectly timed their transition.
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit skeptical. Did they have a good career? Perhaps. Two good careers? Perhaps. Did they time it perfectly, to the day? No way! Yes, the comment could have been a figure of speech, but there is more to it than that one situation. You see, every time I see them, they’re “perfect” and their life is “perfect.” Beautiful weather and steaks every day? Come on! Really?!!!
While everyone benefits from some boundaries, don’t put emotional façades that keep others completely out, that cause you to come across as fake. Now you don’t have reveal secrets or confidences and you don’t have to share everything, but do let your guard down at least enough to let others know you care. Show your vulnerability. If you’re hurting, let others know. Ask for help.
Trust me, no one is perfect. No one knows everything. No one is an island. We need others whether at work, home, or play. World-class leaders in the boardroom, at home, and on the playing field allow others to get close. They are open. They listen. World-class leaders do not hide behind an emotional façade. Do you?
Remember, the ability to serve others with excellence is tied to your ability to be aware (of others and self), to be open and vulnerable and to be authentic. Greatness and service begin with removing any emotional façade we may have.
Are you vulnerable or do you put up thick walls? How would others describe your self-awareness? Your authenticity? Are you real or fake? Open or closed? Have you changed over time?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
Dr. Robert Gerwig is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.
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