Realness ≠ Weakness

LeaderAn important component of leadership is the willingness to be real—to admit not knowing, to admit fear, to admit doubt. I believe that a range of BOTH assuredness AND vulnerability is what makes a GREAT leader.I write these words as much to remind myself of this as to remind you. In the process of birthing the WiRL Leadership Summit, I’ve been bumping up against a ton of fear, doubt and uncertainty! These feelings are nothing new. I can think back to multiple occasions over the course of both my work and personal life that have provoked intense self-doubt—becoming a wilderness expedition leader (“I hope nobody dies on my watch”), getting married (“I hope my husband never falls out of love with me”), speaking in front of large groups of people (“Will they like me?”), coaching stellar executive leaders (“Will I be able to help them?”), becoming a mother for the first time (“Will I be good enough?”). All of these milestones have elicited a variety of conflicting feelings—from inspired to terrified, from unstoppable to uncertain.Whenever I set myself a new challenge, I vacillate between confidence/inspiration/clarity and fear/doubt/insecurity. It usually takes a little time and some tangible results before I experience a level of ease and confidence. I’ve seen this exact same pattern play out for many of the business leaders I coach, too—it usually takes six to twelve months in a new role before my clients find their way to a place of greater assuredness and, dare I say it, poise.And guess what? It’s perfectly normal. It’s totally natural. These are the feelings that Women in Real Life experience… In fact, these are the feelings that people in real life experience, women and men. I’d like to help re-write and reframe the definition of confidence! I’d like the new and improved definition to include “a willingness to be real—to admit not knowing, to admit fear, to admit uncertainty and doubt.” Not always, but sometimes, it’s necessary to choice-fully, mindfully and intentionally be OK with not having all the answers—thereby giving others permission to not have it all figured out, too. I believe that there’s a time and a place to be steady through the storm and be the grounding force amidst others’ fears and doubts—but I also believe that a range of BOTH assuredness AND vulnerability is what defines a GREAT leader.At WiRL, I aspire to have “realness” as our top value because I wholeheartedly believe that innovation and impact are inextricably linked to vulnerability and realness. As a leader, and as a mother, I believe it’s as much my job to say, “I don’t know. We’re learning. We’ll figure this out,” as it is to call the shots, be decisive, and be steady through the storm. Pretending to know is the enemy of actually knowing. I may not always be able to see the road ahead with absolute clarity, but I absolutely know that I’ll keep driving—even amidst a storm—in full faith that the road will continue to reveal itself, 200 feet at a time.Yes, it’s downright scary and vulnerable to feel this way—and even scarier to admit to the people I’m leading that I don’t have all the answers—but I believe that if we want to help others feel confident in their own voice and actions (even amidst fear and uncertainty) then we need to model the way. We owe it to each other to be “real.” Because to be real is to be human. Michelle “Mitch” Shepard is the Founder & Creative Force behind WiRL Leadership Summit— an online event for professional women seeking career success and personal fulfillment. An executive coach, facilitator, and leader herself, Mitch knows firsthand what it takes to succeed to today’s business world, and is eager to help women accomplish their professional and personal goals. Mitch specializes in Emotional Intelligence and is known for her energy, humor and realism.[divider scroll_text=“SCROLL_TEXT”] Ready to do more in your career and life in 2014? Join us and 1 million other participants on February 19th for the Take The Lead Challenge Launch Event, designed to inspire you and show you how to embrace your power and fulfill your potential. Learn more about the event and sign up for the free livestream.