How to Maximize Frailty
The frailty you hide is a door of opportunity, once it’s embraced. Covering frailty causes more frailty. Couples who pretend they’re happy grow unhappy.
Leaders who pretend they’re strong grow weak.
Leaders who reject frailty, their own and that of others, surround themselves with fakers and head-nodders.
Feigning strength or ignoring weakness doesn’t change it, it prolongs it.
Four powers of frailty:
- Frailty opens hearts to receive help. The facade of competence pushes others away. Receiving help lets others matter and bolsters humility in you. Leaders who reject help aren’t going very far.
- Frailty opens hands to give help. Those who feel frail are more eager to help than those pretending they aren’t. The poor are more generous than the rich, comparatively speaking.
- Frailty opens minds to new thoughts. New ideas begin with the weakness of not-knowing. Know-it-alls don’t grow. Not-knowing is the beginning of knowing.
- Frailty opens organizations to new opportunity. Disruption causes failure, failure motivates new behaviors.
The most important power of frailty is it’s power to instill humility. Arrogance builds walls, isolates, and prolongs frailty. Humility lowers barriers.
Connection, not isolation, produces growth, strength, and innovation.
Frailty is your friend as long as you don’t wallow, whine, or wilt in it. You are where you are today because you responded to frailty with hope, openness, and hard work. Frailty isn’t an excuse for failure – it’s the path to success.
Humility lets you try. Arrogance pretends you’re already there.
Only the journey that buckles your knees is worth the first step.
How can leaders deal with frailty?
How has frailty caused openness and humility in you?
I love “Humility lets you try. Arrogance pretends you’re already there.” This post makes so much sense. I am trying to embrace my own shortcomings and share them with my team, hoping it will help them feel comfortable having flaws, too.
Thanks Donna. One of the benefits of humility it is lets us model the way, rather than just point the way.
Dan – thank you for sharing this powerful perspective on the reality of our human frailty. The actualization and acceptance of our own frailty can become a strong foundation that builds our confidence.
Thanks Jim. I believe there is strength in frailty. If only we weren’t so afraid of it. 🙂
Excellent post Dan. This one is by far probably a new fave. One for the hall of LFreak fame. 🙂
It really can be that simple. Simple honesty about life, about our circumstances, less pretense, more curiosity. Less posturing and pretending. More of ‘this is what I can contribute, what can you bring so we can create something together,’
I wholeheartedly believe we’d all get much further if we were more open and honest about our lives, weaknesses, and frailties.
Time to take the shame out of it because that is what stands in the way. (topic for your next post?)
Good work Dan.
Thanks Samantha. You reminded me of something I recently heard Patrick Lencioni say. He said, “Leaders can’t be too vulnerable.” That’s a real kick in the pants for me.
Perhaps it helps for men to really get a good grasp of what it means to be vulnerable. i..e some men may think they have to totally break down and cry in their fruit loops or something…some dramatic display of emotion and feeling. Or ‘get in touch’ with their feelings like a woman etc.
It doesn’t NEED to be anything like that. It simply means ‘be natural…don’t hide it so much’. what would you do or say to allow honesty into the room or the relationship instead of bottling it up and hiding it? Do more of that. (for men in general)
The big key though is the shame factor. It’s CRITICAL for people to be able to be vulnerable without the fear of being shamed for it. (and that’s why groups like the 12 steps can be successful because that’s an important piece to the puzzle…nons haming environments) << Just an example on the shame piece..not that we turn on the job into 12 step sessions! : )
Just be who you are. That’s all the vulnerability I can handle. 🙂
I’ve always been taught to “fake it til you make it” but I’ve always had doubt on how that would work. This makes much more sense to me. Embrace your situation, be honest and reach out. Thank you for posting this.
Thanks Ashley. I can think of a few times when faking it till you make it works for me. That expression may be saying, do what you think you should do even if you don’t feel like it. Sometimes we might not feel kind but we act with kindness anyway. Just a thought. 🙂
Ashley, I took a different approach to “fake it til you make it.” It’s more like what do people who are successful at selling widgets do, then emulate the success strategies. How do you build a huge networking circle? One person at a time. For me, anyway, it wasn’t being a fraud until you could be successful, it was follow the success map, read the books, work on yourself, then eventually you’ll see those qualities come naturally.
Frailty is a very necessary component in being considered a leader. My leadership style has always been extremely aware, decisive, analytical, and restorative. Those traits have allowed me to thrive in chaotic environments; they have given me access where I wouldn’t have had any. It is so difficult for me to be vulnerable or frail when the stakes are high. I have been socialized to believe that vulnerability is a sign of weakness. I’m moving away from that oppressive model of leadership and into one where it’s okay to be powerful and powerless, informed and unaware, logical and emotional. For the first time in my life, I’m harnessing my emotions strategically and it feels…. Great! Thanks for writing this!
Thanks Walk. The combination of language is very helpful. Frailty isn’t the absence of any strength at all. We could also say that even in our strength there is some frailty. Best for the journey!
Love this! Arrogance and pride build false humility and low self esteem in teams. We were not put here to dominate each other but to celebrate each others strength. Micromanage fragility you gather weakness around you, lead strong you bring up confidence in world changers.
Wow! I do have a façade of competence…I thought it was a good thing. I do try to practice humility and didn’t see it’s place in the workforce. I do this to impress the partners…apparently appearing arrogant to my peers. I overheard one of the partners say I wan not a team player. I am a rock star at my job, meticulous and efficient. This is a small company who looks at getting along and congeniality within the office-I’m trying to do a corporate job and it just doesn’t fit in this small town firm. Epiphany!
growth is generally painful – but to not grow is deadly in the job market. Too bad it isn’t the other way around.
THis Was So inSightFull..iT Dawn*Duh On Me..kNot WinDow Of OpporTunity..But..tHe DooR Of FraiLty..tHat LeaDs 2 FooT*Step*OuT*tHE*W»or«lD…ty…smj/14
Strength is… Embracing Ones Frailty, an oxymoron of sorts.
Dan, this post is refreshing and it speaks of insightful truth; it resonated with my core being and I wanted to thank you! Crystal clear clarity in a not always so clear perspective. I will journey with this beautiful thought today…Cheers!
Pretending is fakeness which takes an individual away from the reality. Yet ending in psychological confusions.
I have always believed this great virtue of humility was simply to “feel felt.” However, some time ago a reader of Leadership Freak—whom I cannot recall the name–wrote eloquently about humility as follows:
“Humility is not passive, a state of not acting with arrogance, nor is it putting oneself down, rather actively getting out of the way and building others up. Humility means putting the mission of the organization and others first, consciously stepping aside, consciously stretching others’ abilities, and consciously praising individuals and teams-of-others alike.
With respect to the issue of a leader being driven while at the same time remaining humble–sometimes it is not that a leader is deliberately arrogant or taking center stage, but that a leader isn’t working consciously to build others up, or deliberately taking himself off stage so others can shine. They are not actively elevating others to the point where they can contribute fully.”
I thought it worthy to write it down back then, and to bring it to your attention now.
…by acknowledging that you’re serving others first and then yourself. Help someone, coach someone. By falling and rising again, I have decided to open up myself to other and show myself in a pure but sincere way.
Remember to be careful, or at least aware, when pining for more humility in your life — the words humility and humiliation are closely related, and one often comes with the other, I’ve learned. Not too much fun especially when it happens in public in front of lots of people. Folks who wish for humility don’t usually crave humiliation….sometimes it happens whether it’s pratfall type situations, or making an obvious mistake in front of lots of experts. Cheers 🙂
Excellent post. Thank you.
I couldn’t agree more. Having the courage to admit our mistakes, and show our weakness is powerful. It breaks down the barriers with others and really brings out the best collaboration.
I must admit that I don’t care for the choice of terminology. Frailty does not segue into humility but imperfect may.
Inadequate or limited also work. I feel that frailty does not foster humility but rather a need for a doctor. 🙂
Humility is so essential to leadership and learning to be a well rounded individual at all.
Leaders may be flawed but not necessarily frail. Frailty Implies a lack of strength, constitution or ability and all of those are necessary qualities of leaders and of leadership
Your post is great! We need to be reminded of this! A true leader is made up of strong and frail ( weak). It takes humility to accept this. If one accepts this then he can LEAD more..
This, this is it: Feigning strength or ignoring weakness doesn’t change it, it prolongs it!!
That was the hook for me!
Dan, I love this post!
I read in a book called ’45 Minutes in Heaven’ where an injured pastor was saved from a car accident to months of difficult recovery. Many people tried to help, but he didn’t want to accept it. He was a giver, not a receiver. Then a woman told him he was stealing a blessing from those that offered to help him. The blessings of frailty go BOTH directions. Allowing others to see our imperfections gives hope to those with similar challenges. What a boring place it would be if people truly were perfect. It’s our imperfections that make us unique individuals and our humility that allows others to show us how to grow.
I thought of this example when you complimented Bob on Monday. It’s hard for some not to get a big ego when many compliments are given, especially when they become expected. I sure love the frailty and humility he expresses. And I’m thankful his interview led me here to your wisdom as well!
I’ve long been a believer in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. This takes that same comment to an extreme and focused level. Thanks for sharing the act of frailty as a virtue.
I wanted to add a real life scenario to this discussion. I am working on a motivational book/memoir which focused on my battle with a muscle wasting but treatable auto-immune disease and challenging the serenity prayer…what you can change and what you can’t change about you and your life. Once you start putting yourself out there as any kind of mentor within this arena, you have a lot of responsibility. You have to be honest with yourself and others about how you are really coping and not just gloss over it. I found that I tend to write posts about all the exciting things I do which are naturally more newsworthy and interesting than saying I’ve had to spend 4/4 days in bed to recover from my ferry trip around Sydney with my son. I am trying to rectify this a bit because it makes other people feel bad, especially when they’re supposedly healthy and here’s someone who’s been through pneumonia and chemo and they’re skiing, learning the violin doing everything but leaping over tall buildings in a single bound. This week, I’ve been more honest about finding it hard with my friends and while not going on about it it saying something like most of us are dealing with something.
My husband has had a difficult work situation where his boss is battling cancer and we saw him in hospital and he shared what he was going through with us at a very personal level, probably because he knew we understood and had been there. He hasn’t tried to be the tough guy and has appreciated my husband’s friendship and having someone outside the family.
I haven’t been able to work for the last year other than on my writing projects and am a bit out of step with the corporate sector now and have also had enough of game playing. I just want people to tell it as it is. Get on with it. Leaders need to be real.