Vulnerable Leadership

Voltaire said that “the perfect is the enemy of the good”.

The best small and midmarket companies I see have a culture of trying new things – not needing to be perfect with all available information before they try something new.  I guess you can call it a culture of innovation.

Not all of your ideas are going to work.  I once ran an all-hands meeting of about one hundred engineers and instead of clapping – we gave everyone a kazoo with the idea that we’d have some fun and get these engineers out of their shells.  Well, it failed miserably!  Not one engineer made a peep!  But the upside of our attempt at fun was that the organization did get the message that it was OK to try new things.

I call this ‘vulnerable leadership’.  If you never share any of your own failures, how can you possibly think that your team will share their failures.  If you, as the leader, are perfect, then they’ll think they have to be perfect.  That means they’ll play it safe, not try anything new, do things the same old way, watch margins degrade and eventually you’ll be boarding up the doors.  In its simplest form, it’s a case of innovate or die.  We all have to try new ways of going to market but still be agile enough to recover quickly from some of our mistakes …. like the kazoo!

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