One of my favorite quotes is,
“being the authentic, unapologetic you is totally on trend.”
I wish it were more true. We all harbor a burning desire to be able to just “be ourselves.” I’m confident that in an environment where this is possible our potential is limitless.
I’m convinced that leaders wanting to inspire others to action should be transparent. With our recent economic crisis, failing businesses everywhere and the not so transparent
presidential election where the integrity
of leaders is constantly in question. Surrounded with fake persona's and failed leadership I'm inspired to share this ah ha moment of mine about the power of transparency.
Here it is....
Some time ago, I wrote a post “What Will You Do Differently
...” I was on the facilitating team for an intense three-day leadership training for teens - 20 students, ages 14 to 18. After the first day because of the intensity of the process, one of the students chose to quit the program. Of the remaining 19 students, I was amazed at the diversity in the group. We had representation from USA, Canada and Mexico. Almost immediately, the group divided themselves into brands like apparel stores in a mall - Abercrombie, Hot Topic, Forever 21 and Finish Line.
As facilitators, we were instructed NOT to show emotion, that throughout the process the young people must learn to lean on themselves and each other. Two of the students really challenged that directive for me. The first was a young lady with a sad demeanor that couldn’t hide her broken self-image. She didn’t fit into a brand, and she was quick to isolate herself from the rest of the group. The other, the extreme opposite - a very tall, handsome jock whom all the ladies in the class were crushing pretty hard on. He was a junior in high school and was already being recruited by college basketball scouts. I noticed immediately his “Mr. Cool” attitude. His father, likely to be some CEO, sent him to the training to develop strong leadership skills. At first glance, I foolishly assumed he would be the “leader” of the group.
As the students went through each challenging process, I watched their outer images start to breakdown and more of their inner strengths shine through. With no emotional support from facilitators, it took a great deal of transparency to get through the training. Halfway through and failing each process miserably, the group was in desperate need of a leader. Because of his 'too cool for school' attitude, I’d given up on the tall, handsome jock. Much to my surprise, it was the young, broken girl that emerged as the leader in the group. To this day, I don’t know what her breaking point was. Literally, up until that moment, she was not engaged with other members of the group outside of facilitated and forced interaction. She stepped up out of a genuine intent to help the team and selflessly put herself at risk. I don’t know if it was out of inspiration or desperation but the rest of the group followed her. I remember thinking to myself, unfortunately this is something you’d never see on the school yard.
Later that evening, in a closed circle where the students expressed their thoughts, feelings and experiences on this journey, she opened up for the first time. She shared her story of how her mom died when she was very young and she went to live with another family. She told the group about how she never fit in there, or anywhere for that matter. She said she'd always been teased about the way she looks, and she began to share some of the cruel things the girls in her biology class would do and say to her. I wanted to beat them up. With tears in her eyes, she told her classmates that this was the first time she ever felt accepted in her life. She said, even more importantly, it was the first time she accepted herself and felt proud of who she was. I was touched.
Meanwhile, Mr. 'Too Cool for School' was clenching his fist. It was the first time I saw him react in a manner outside of those of a cast member on The Hills. He stood up, walked over to her and said, “You are beautiful, and don’t let anyone tell you differently.”
It was those two acts of transparency that unleashed the power of the group. The students engaged in deep discussions about their common ground and shared challenges despite their differences. They started to strategize about how their generation could make a difference in our out of whack world today - about how they each can impact what goes on in their schools, homes and in their workplaces. They created a plan on how they could continue to support each other despite the distance between them (of course the plan involved Social Media!).
What I heard that night, the collaborative idea’s, hopes and dreams of these young people was more brilliant than anything I’d heard in amongst the finest Executive gatherings. I developed a new-found confidence in this next generation. That weeked I observed a group willing to be transparent transform into leaders. Transparency in Leaders I wish we had more of today.
a drastic change in thinking and behaving with talent.