Real leaders don’t cry(?)

tearsRecently in a workshop a leader was moved to tears while narrating her story.  She apologised and received a very positive response from the group.

Immediately the leaders wanted to talk about how to handle vulnerability.  One leader said sometimes he’s so passionate about what he’s saying that he tears up.  He questioned if this was appropriate.

Recently, Michael Clarke, Australia’s cricket captain, broke down on national TV discussing the tragic passing of teammate Phil Hughes.  Many a blogger commented on how powerful the moment was as a positive influence on young boys. This comment captured the sentiment: “Not so long ago it wouldn’t have done at all for the captain of the Aussie cricket team to cry for a mate, and say how much he loved him, publicly. Glad our boys can see this.”

Our culture deeply conditions us to be brave and hide our feelings, particularly at work.  For women leaders this is compounded by fear of being seen as weak or emotional if we tear up.

Tears at work are awkward.  If you tear up (it can happen), how would you recover? If someone else at work tears up, try offering a hug or a pat on the back, or try some humour to break the tension.

Tears are a sign of vulnerability, not weakness.  Brene Brown the world’s foremost expert on vulnerability, says staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take to experience deep connections.

Real leaders cry – and real leaders also recover with grace.

Please comment, I love hearing from you.

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  • Susan Inglis

    Having been thinking about this topic recently as a friend sent this trailer to a new documentary about boys and how they are taught to “man up” – which they note is hard to know exactly that means – and not to show their emotions. The film sounds very powerful. The trailer is below and worth viewing for 5 minutes. I think its going to show here in Melbourne on 10th March. If we can avoid young men going off the rails, feeling worthless, not feeling free to be who they are, then fabulous! I personally know a couple of young men who have made suicide attempts and this certainly made me think about how we can create the space for people to share their emotional state with others and seek support.

    I cry at the drop of a hat and I don’t think its ever got in the way. In fact the response is usually that I develop a closer relationship with those around me, as they get to see what’s really important to me. and I reckon we don;t share that kind of content enough.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Suse so lovely to read your comment, and let’s go to this movie together, sounds powerful and speaking to a deep need in our society.
      Love your honesty about crying at the drop of a hat and rest assured it is perfectly fine.
      Best wishes

  • Amanda

    Earlier this week I revisited Brene Browns powerful TED talk on vulnerability as I propose to buy her recently published book. It made me rethink my attitude to a parenting a 20 something man who is puzzling over his future direction as well as my contribution at board level. It takes courage to ‘ man-up’ and contribute to the fullest level and often this is not rewarded. As to ‘tearing up’ I will remember your observation of vulnerability vs weakness. In an emotional situation, personal or public, It is important to ‘listen’ to the response then acknowledge, rather than acknowledge the response you anticipate.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Hi Amanda
      Just today we were talking about the difference between listening and actually hearing what is said. Like you I am a Brene Borwn fan and think her work has created a profound shift in the way we view and deal with our vulnerabilities.

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