A few years ago, I believed that the role of a leader was to do strategy, to coach your people, to import stress and export calm but never to show how you were feeling and never to expose your failings - How wrong I was!
I went through a marriage break-up, tried to hold it all together but couldn't and shared how I felt with one of my team; it was the start of a journey I have been on (and am still on!) to share my feelings more and encourage others to do the same, in pursuit of building a culture of trust and one where people who are struggling can share that with others.
If as a leader I ask people to share with me and tell me how they are feeling and I can't do the same myself that is not leadership or leading by example, that doesn't build a culture where people put themselves out there as they will believe that that puts them at risk.
At one of our conferences we were trying to get more of our people to use EAP (A confidential, 3rd party counselling resource) as a way of supporting them and one of the ways I tried was telling them my story about how, through my marriage break up, I used it. It wasn't easy and I did get emotional, but people didn't see me as a 'Weak' leader as a result, in fact the opposite, I had so many people tell me that was 'inspiring', and I even had a sales associate come up to me and tell me he was going through exactly the same thing at that time and it helped him to decide what he needed to do and that he needed to get help.
Following on from this and being energised by the feedback I realised I had struck gold and that this was an important leadership skill that I could build on to build stronger trust in the business.
At our next townhall meeting I prepped all of my management team to share their 'Oh Shit' story, a time in their career where they had made a big mistake or cock up. They were a little bit tentative, but after we all did it there was universal feedback that it made us more approachable and built trust. I also had people say ' Gee, I didn't realise all you lot had made so many cock-ups, that gives me hope!!!'
A couple of weeks ago I had one of my sales associates give me a book as a present, in it she had written a lovely message telling me how inspiring I was and that she loved my humility and vulnerability. Those are the little things I love in my job and it all makes it worth it. So the next time you think about leadership and how you can build trust in your organisation, think about whether you are walking the talk around vulnerability.