Few myths are as universal as the notion that leaders ought to appear tough and confident. Or at least that was the case before the current and ongoing pandemic, which has exposed the many weaknesses of forceful, dominant leaders and highlighted the superiority of those who have had the courage to reveal their vulnerabilities.
Consider how Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, and Jair Bolsonaro dismissed the virus, displayed fearless bravado, and undermined the policies of wearing a mask or social distancing, putting others at risk. Contrast this with the honest and data-driven approach taken by Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern, or Sanna Marin, which saved thousands of lives and mitigated the economic damage to Germany, New Zealand, and Finland respectively.
People in companies of all types are better off when their leaders are smart, honest, and caring when taking bold, potentially unpopular actions — when their focus is on helping the organization move forward, not on how they look and certainly not on creating a false sense of invincibility that actually harms people. In a complex and uncertain world that demands constant learning and agility, the most adaptable leaders are those who are aware of their limitations, have the necessary humility to grow their own and others’ potential, and are courageous and curious enough to create sincere and open connections with others. They thrive on building inclusive team climates with psychological safety that encourage constructive criticism and dissent.