November 25, 2019 | 3 min read
Originally published on Forbes
Early November was difficult. Rockets were being fired back and forth between Israel, the Gaza strip and Syria. At the same time, neither incumbent prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his political opponent Benny Gantz have been able to form a majority coalition government. And then to top it off, Israel’s Attorney General indicted the prime minister on three charges of fraud and breach of trust. Netanyahu denies all wrongdoing–instead attacking the legal establishment that he says is conspiring to brim him down.
Difficult times like these make us search for leadership, and contemplate on what a good leader looks like.
True, effective leadership, in the military and also in business, is not the stereotypical fist-pounding, tight-lipped leadership we often see in soundbytes or in cinema. True leadership is about forming an emotional connection with people and genuinely caring for them. When things are going well, people are easy to lead. Leadership is much more demanding when times are tough. When things are not going well, leaders fall back on their personal connections with their subordinates to ensure their cooperation, perseverance and loyalty. This personal connection between the leader and his/her people is essential because it both motivates and binds.
In the military, the best leaders are not afraid to show their love and devotion for their troops. In a recent interview with Justin Maciejewski, director of the British National Army Museum and retired British army commander, Maciejewski shares the type of emotional connection he developed with his soldiers. “I came to realize that showing vulnerability and presence as a leader becomes a very important way of galvanizing everyone around a particular mission. I wouldn’t go on a mission with a leader because I was worried about that leader, but because I wanted to show that leader that I was right next to him.” Notice how Maciejewski intrinsically understood that he needed to be close, emotionally and physically, to his troops in order to lead them—not distanced. How do leaders create that special, personal connection which allows for people to follow them through thick and thin? The answer is vulnerability. They allow themselves to be emotionally vulnerable because it is the basis for building strong relationships.
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In 2010, Brene Brown’s TED Talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability” took the world by storm. Like most research that goes viral, Brown brought to our attention something very basic about being human: our need for emotional connections between ourselves and others. She argued that “Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about.” Being social animals, connecting emotionally with other people is part of being human. It is essential to the human experience. Throughout our lives, our most meaningful relationships are based on deep, emotional connections. These relationships begin as familial but as we get older, grow to include friends, teachers, colleagues, mentors and, also, our bosses and leaders. Brown called for us to use the power of vulnerability to deepen our relationships.