Vistage Executive Street Blog News

Leadership: Your Accessible Humanity

“The degree to which you are willing to be open and therefore vulnerable strongly influences the degree to which others feel connected to you, are inspired by you, and are willing to trust you.”

 When I look back on 2012 and reflect on my experiences with others’ leadership, a high point occurred while I was on an Alaskan vacation cruise with my oldest daughter. I was particularly impressed by the leadership displayed by many crew members and especially the Captain. In addition to having extraordinary knowledge about operating large motor vessels around the world, he had to have broad expertise in business including; operations, health and safety, customer service, motivating employees from several different nations, assuring environmentally friendly practices, international law, and much more to be effective in his job.

What really struck me most about this very busy Captain was his accessibility. With more than 2,000 passengers aboard, it was beyond impossible for everyone to dine at the Captain’s table. To solve that problem, he made a point of making himself available in creative ways multiple times throughout the trip. One of his most effective was a cooking demonstration he conducted on making Dutch pancakes.

He created openness or accessibility with light-hearted humor and by sharing part of his life with us as follows:

  • He talked us through preparing and serving a dish his mom taught him how to make as a child including samples for each of us. It was surprising and fascinating not only that he could cook, but that he was willing to get up on stage in front of passengers and show us.
  • He conducted the demonstration with the assistance of one of his staff who served as his “straight man” to keep a lively banter going. While the Captain took us through the food preparation, his assistant facilitated an “open Q&A” between him and the audience that included questions about his life on land during his time off, his relationships, and even his dog.

People left this very successful event with a sense of personal connection with the Captain which, of course, carried over to the crew and the cruise line itself. The experience got me to thinking more broadly about other times and ways that I have seen leaders share their humanity and what a powerful leadership move it is.

How available are you to your employees? Would you ever do something as accessible and personal as a cooking demonstration with a live no-holds-barred Q&A?

There is immense demonstrable value in allowing yourself to be seen as human. It creates greater trust and connection which calls forth increased risk taking, creativity, and collaboration.

This year, why not think of a creative way to let your team get to know you better? Demonstrate something you love – tying flies for fishing, building model airplanes, grilling, cooking or whatever?  It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time and it will be one of the ways that you grow your effectiveness as a leader.