Personal Frailties and Leadership Credibility

Sharing failures exposes performance deficiencies. Sharing frailties, on the other hand, concerns personal behaviors.

Done well, sharing frailties strengthens connections and enhances credibility. Done poorly it demoralizes others, undermines leadership, and hinders organizational success.

In a tell-all world privacy is not a sin.

Keep most of your current personal frailties within a very small circle of trusted family and friends. In my opinion, publicly telling-all is self-indulgent immaturity. It’s a plea for love.

Guiding principle #1

Impact on others informs sharing personal frailties.

Three reasons to share frailties:

  1. Share to connect – identify with organizational employees and colleagues.
  2. Expose to encourage – let people know you experience similar battles to theirs.
  3. Explain to instruct – give others a glimpse of your frailties when it helps them find their way.

Most importantly, keep it to yourself until you’ve made substantial progress.

Five components of sharing personal frailties:

  1. Carefully explain frailty in personal terms with illustrations that highlight your weakness.
  2. Clearly describe corrective actions taken.
  3. Plainly illustrate progress achieved.
  4. Humbly state your progress is ongoing.
  5. Don’t be a self-defeated whiner.

What if?

Frailties may bleed into moral or legal failures. Once again, impact on the organization determines the level of openness. For example, the moral failure of religions leaders requires calculated public exposure in ways that protect individuals and organizations.

Guiding principle #2

The level of offense determines the level of acknowledgement.

For example, blowing up at one person should be addressed with that one person. There’s no need for a company-wide video conference to explain that you lost your temper with one of your managers.


7 Ways to Fail and Maintain Credibility


What suggestions can you offer for sharing personal frailties in ways that enhance credibility?


Interview where leaders exposed their frailties and failures:

Joe Tye: Finding his contribution Pt. 1

A Different Kind of Courage – G.J. Hart

A Dealer in Hope – G.J. Hart

Dealing with Disappointment and Delay – Kevin Eikenberry

In over his head – Scott Eblin

John G. Miller on Life and Leadership


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