by AMY EDMONDSON AND TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC, Fast Company Magazine, 10/30/20.
… The big lesson, if you are interested in being a leader, or perhaps in being a better leader, is to move away from the traditional macho behaviors and embrace a more vulnerable leadership style. Paradoxically, tough macho leaders put their teams and followers at risk. Vulnerable leaders who don’t hide their weaknesses make their teams and followers stronger. Ironically, although many refer to the macho-type leader as an “alpha male,” the term is a misnomer. As primatologist Frans de Waal finds, in the wild, “alpha males actually possess leadership traits like generosity, peacekeeping, and empathy.”
A discernible shift from celebrating macho leaders to celebrating vulnerable leaders is underway. In an uncertain, complex, interdependent world where one tiny virus can wreak havoc everywhere, leadership characterized by overconfidence, defensiveness, and rule by fear fails spectacularly. The health results across nations bear this out. We do not claim that these differences are because of female leadership, but rather because of their effectiveness. Any leader, whether of a nation or a corporation, who is more focused on gaining fans and seeking praise than on building others’ capabilities and embracing constructive criticism is at extreme risk when agile responses are needed to cope with novel challenges.
- seeks praise
- craves fans and followers
- blames others when things go wrong
- creates a culture of fear
- embraces criticism
- builds others’ capabilities
- takes responsibility when things go wrong
- creates psychological safety
To adopt a more vulnerable style, we recommend starting with a rational sense of humility about what lies ahead. This triggers a productive sense of curiosity that drives interest in others and in learning more about what they know and need. No leader can succeed over the long-term without that interest, precisely because they will then fail to leverage the capabilities of followers.