Most of us have a moment in childhood when we realize that our parents are not superheroes. Then, when we’re a little older, we realize that not only are they not superheroes, they’re in fact imperfect, often feel vulnerable, and occasionally even have no idea what the best course of action is. In other words, they are just like us.
This can be a confusing transition at first, but as you grow into adulthood, you get used to seeing your parents as humans. This can even become comforting, offering a new way to connect with them and learn. And yet, when we mature into leaders in our professional lives, we often fall into a pattern that echoes that experience of being a kid—we think we must come off to our team as a confident, infallible person with all the answers. But this is the wrong approach. Healthy leaders know how to lead without constructing a façade of total control.
Employees are yearning for a more human connection with their leaders. They don’t want parent-like figures who appear to have all the answers (but, of course, don’t have all of them). They want leaders who are courageous enough to be human—to be real and transparent—and build genuine connections and credible reputations with their teams.
Credibility comes from being open with your team about challenges and uncertainty—and about the fact that you make the best decision you can today, but you might change your mind tomorrow with new information. This humanizes you in your team’s eyes, helping them to see you’re a person just like them, trying to navigate obstacles as best you can.
Additionally, you’re more likely to inspire employees to collaborate and offer ideas that they would have kept silent about if you had acted all-knowing. We’re not suggesting you voice every insecurity, concern, or point of confusion. Your team needs to trust in your ability to steer the ship through the rocky waters of change and uncertainty. But a healthy leader knows that showing your humanity is not a liability. Instead, it offers an often-overlooked advantage.
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