Chances are, you know a CEO (or several) who seems like the eternal optimist. These leaders are perpetually upbeat, enthusiastic, motivational, and generally positive all around. Traits like these are often rooted in passion, which is why we find so many entrepreneurs with this rosy outlook. Understandably, leaders are expected to inspire and engage stakeholders, and, for obvious reasons, they want to emphasize the good news that makes themselves and their teams proud.
But, this sunshine-and-roses perspective often masks greater challenges underneath. When I coach leaders, so many hesitate, hold back or neglect to bring up the tough topics. These leaders simply do not want to talk about the things that are missing, stuck, or breaking down for them personally or within their organizations. If they mention a setback at all, they whitewash it or spend the most time explaining why it happened rather than focusing on a solution. There is a tip-toeing around tough conversations or hard decisions, with the notion that we’re protecting someone or something.
But at what cost?
While there is something to be said for the power of positivity, all this rosiness gets in the way of progress when it ignores the facts and hides vulnerabilities. The adages “if you ignore it, it will go away” and “ignorance is bliss” are no way to run a business. Whether it’s leaders with their teams, CEOs with their directors, or entire corporations with their consumers, this void of candor stalls growth and prohibits success. Issues, challenges, and sticking points need to see the light of day to benefit from collective examination and collaborative problem-solving.
Exposing vulnerabilities feels uncomfortable for everyone – it is a very human trait to want to hide our weaknesses. However, open and honest dialogue about where we’re individually struggling means we can adjust training, coaching, and development to build stronger teams and deeper benches. Candor is a powerful motivator for engagement that creates meaningful opportunities for people to connect and relate.
Identifying and acknowledging vulnerabilities in our organizations – with a sales process, a consumer group, or our business model, for example – can spell the difference between success and failure. Only once we decide we want to know the real, hard truth, and when we are prepared to dig deep into what it will take, then will we find resolution, growth, and success.
Leadership today requires courage – courage to admit our weaknesses, courage to acknowledge the challenges, courage to admit what is not working, courage to make tough decisions, and, most notably, the courage to ask for help.
First featured on Forbesbooks.com.