I recently had a discussion around what was considered appropriate and inappropriate in leadership. There were a number of things brought up and most were simple enough, but one topic emerged that truly bothered me. It was the subject of crying in leadership. The suggestion was made that it was inappropriate to cry if you’re in a position of leadership and all of the references were made to men in leadership.
I challenged this by asking if it would be viewed the same if women in the same place of leadership would be viewed as equally inappropriate if they were to cry. The answer was a cleverly crafted “no”, but a “no” nonetheless. This disturbed me to a large degree. At the time I politely disagreed and let the conversation continue. I wanted to spend some time thinking about why this bothered me to such an extent.
If it’s fair to ask, “What is the prevailing thinking about a leader who cries openly?” I thought it was fair to also ask, “What is the prevailing thinking about a leader who laughs openly?” Are we judging leaders by the existence of certain emotions? In being a leader, are we not permitted to experience a particular emotion?
The fact that this was made a gender issue made me a little sick in my gut. It was like an archaic and misconstrued understanding of masculinity was being perpetuated. A distorted perspective that says masculine strength doesn’t cry is nothing short of absurd. The implication to say that it’s okay to cry because of femininity, yet it’s a sign of weakness for men because of our masculinity is appalling. It subversively places women beneath men as weaker. Less. Rubbish!
As long as an expression of ANY emotion does not genuinely diminish the efficacy of your leadership, then be who you are. It is that authenticity that will make you a better leader. People will see you as a real person, not some distant figurehead.
The idea of reducing certain emotions to gender based roles is a complete lack of leadership and understanding of the human condition. Emotions are an element of our humanity. When we begin asking for less than human qualities in a leader, the result will be less than human results from that leader. I say live your life passionately and be a leader that is an expression of who you are. That is where greatness begins in leadership.
How have you seen great leadership exemplified through the expression of emotion?