Everybody agrees nobody is perfect. We all have our faults. Yet some emerge as leaders and outstanding successes.
I’ve come to believe leaders lead and successes succeed not in spite of their faults or weaknesses, but because of them. The things themselves don’t matter as much as the emotions we attach to them. Attach shame to something inherent about you and people will see a part of you as shameful. Attach honor to the same thing and people will see something honorable, all the more so if you overcame shame to reach the honor.
Great leaders incorporate their faults and weaknesses so much into their identities we don’t see them as faults and weaknesses anymore.
Pick any great leader or success. You probably first think of what made them great. It shouldn’t take you long to find their flaws and weaknesses, but you probably immediately discount them.
Think of Babe Ruth (or nearly any other great hitter) being in the top 100 for most career strikeouts. We see his striking out so much almost as a strength. After all, only a great could get so many at bats. The player who struck out most — Reggie Jackson — stands out as no slouch either.
By contrast, those who don’t own their faults sink by them. Think of Tiger Woods’ disgrace after his scandal. Independent of your thoughts on him, many professional male athletes do similar things without repercussions from society. Charles Barkley helped his career by embracing his bad-boy side.
Do you believe you are too fat, too skinny, too old, too young, too white, too black, too rich, too poor, too whatever? Whatever fault or weakness you think you have, someone else with more or it reached greater success than you, probably embracing that part of them.
The high point in Eminem’s movie 8 mile, when he wins a rap battle, illustrates this point dramatically. This video shows the three battles leading to it in which his opponents attack his whiteness, poverty, mother, and so on. Just after his second-to-last battle his friend points out his opponent in the final knows yet more of his weaknesses.
Eminem’s character wins the battle by announcing these weaknesses as things that made him stronger for overcoming them. He disarms his opponent and brings the crowd to his side.
First a video with all three battles, then the same scenes with the lyrics. If you don’t already know, they curse a lot in the videos.
Yes, the movie is dramatized and scripted, but the principles in your life are the same.
You don’t have to face an opponent on stage in front of a crowd, but the things about you you feel shame for will invoke pity on you from others.
What you wear with honor or pride others will see as strengths. The things themselves don’t matter as much as the emotions we attach to them. If they are your things, you can take the lead to attach the emotions you want.
You don’t have to accept how others view your properties.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book