Vulnerability will make you an effective leader, but it won't get you promoted

Plus: self-care is a scientifically-proven competitive advantage

Welcome, entrepreneurs. I’m so glad you’re here.

Seismic shift in the tenor of the US this week, as comes with any leadership change. However you feel about this change, one thing we all have in common is that we’re feeling something. Understanding that, I want to invite you to go out of your way to be kind over the coming weeks, as we all collectively process this transition. Leadership changes are taxing on everyone in an organization, and the organization of the US is no exception.

As 22 year old poet Amanda Gorman said:

And so, we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us. We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside. We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another. We seek harm to none and harmony for all. Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true. That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped; that even as we tired, we tried; that we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Specifically, I invite you to consider choosing, in the moment and over and over again, your relationships with people over your own “rightness.”

Take solace in the fact that you know that you are right, and that I know that you are right. You are right. Now, content in our righteousness, let’s let go of the need to prove it, and simply choose to connect with each other, come what may.

This week we explore a related and timely observation about the way we select our leaders from Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, and dive into the science behind the ROI of self-care.

Let’s dive in.

(Photo credit @mattimore)

Vulnerability may make you a better leader, but it won’t get you promoted

I’m on record about the relative power of vulnerability and commitment over success and certainty in the realm of leadership. And I’m not the only one — after an exhaustive, five year study, top leadership thinker Jim Collins says the same.

So why is it that vulnerable, committed leaders are still so rare? Why is it that strong leaders who are also human beings are such leprechauns?

Because, as this article in the Harvard Business Review (examining the rise of incompetent men over competent women) articulated very well, human beings are bad decision makers when it comes to promoting people into leadership positions. “We (people in general) commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence,” when in fact they are often polar opposites.

To further illustrate, on the one hand (and this won’t shock you), “leaderless groups have a natural tendency to elect self-centered, overconfident and narcissistic individuals as leaders.”

And on the other, “arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent — the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group.”

The article continues:

The paradoxical implication is that the same psychological characteristics that enable male managers to rise to the top of the corporate or political ladder are actually responsible for their downfall. In other words, what it takes to get the job is not just different from, but also the reverse of, what it takes to do the job well. As a result, too many incompetent people are promoted to management jobs, and promoted over more competent people.

Unsurprisingly, the mythical image of a “leader” embodies many of the characteristics commonly found in personality disorders, such as narcissism (Steve Jobs or Vladimir Putin), psychopathy (fill in the name of your favorite despot here), histrionic (Richard Branson or Steve Ballmer) or Machiavellian (nearly any federal-level politician) personalities. The sad thing is not that these mythical figures are unrepresentative of the average manager, but that the average manager will fail precisely for having these characteristics.

So yes, vulnerability and commitment are the very things that make an outstanding leader. But they are empirically less likely to get you promoted into a leadership position than simply talking about yourself a lot. And as the article states, this may not only explain why there are more vulnerable, committed leaders in startups than in the corporate world, but may also explain the glass ceiling that blocks women from advancing as fast as men, to everyone’s detriment.

Funny, illogical animals, us humans.

The author of the article also wrote a book and gave a TED talk, if you’re interested in diving deeper.

Attention Hustlers: take a nap to increase your output

It seems self evident that the harder and longer you work, the more you get done.

It’s also not true. NASA (who if anyone can be counted on to be rigorous about the validity of a scientific study, they’re those people) proved it.

Over a long term study targeting pilots, with the intention to determine whether they were putting themselves or passengers at risk by working more hours, NASA empirically proved that taking a 26-minute nap in the middle of each shift increases job-performance by about 34%.

To restate: take a 26-minute power nap and you’ll get 1/3 more done.

And before you quickly dismiss this as “interesting but I gotta get back to work,” recognize that a large majority of major breakthroughs stem from someone leaning into something that is both counterintuitive, and true.

Will it work for you? Run your own experiment.

No, really. Take care of yourself. HBR agrees.

I speak with stressed out CEOs regularly, and when I talk about self-care I usually hear the same thing: “I’m too busy. I know it’s important, but right now I’m just strapped. I really should do it. Maybe tomorrow.”

If I told them to take a nap, even with the data above to prove it, most would actually agree with the data excitedly (many of my clients are data-driven folks). Many would even start to think about how they could enable their employees to power-nap in a non-distracting way. But almost none of them would take a nap themselves later that day.

If I told them that, according to Harvard Business Review:

healthy diet has been linked to better moods, higher energy levels, and lower levels of depression. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow, boosting both learning and memory. Getting good sleep has been linked to increased focus, improved cognitive function (including creativity and innovation), greater capacity for learning, and improved empathy

…they’d probably still think that all that was compelling for someone else, but they themselves simply had too much to do.

I get it. I’ve been there. And now I spend from 5-7 every morning on a rigorous, personalized self-care routine, simply because it makes me more effective.

If you still think that success only comes from putting in more hours, consider that trying to outwork their responsibilities is precisely how most (especially young) leaders react to the idea of taking care of themselves first. And given that that’s the popular choice, consider also the competitive advantage you’ll be at when you finally lean into the counterintuitive, but very real, benefits of self care.

Eat healthy, exercise, sleep well and take naps. Go win your market.

Is mood a gift or a skill?

From the venerable Seth Godin this week:

Some days, we wake up with optimism and possibility… we’re able to find more reserves, connect better and do more generous work.

That might be because the outside world has handed us good news and opportunities, or it might be because the chemicals in our brain are particularly aligned…

I think it’s fair to assert that sometimes, our moods are handed to us.

But it’s also clearly true that we can do things to improve our mood. Morning pages, meditation, exercise, positive thinking, the right audio inputs, who we hang out with, the media we consume–it’s all a choice.

And if it’s a choice, that means it’s a skill, because we can get better at it.

We’ve all felt what it’s like to be “in the zone.” Imagine the force multiplying effect of living there.

You might not be able to wave a magic wand, but by being intentional about your practices you can increase your odds.


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