Recently in a workshop, a leader was moved to tears while narrating her story. She apologised and received a very positive response from the group.
Immediately the leaders wanted to talk about how to handle vulnerability. One leader said sometimes he’s so passionate about what he’s saying that he tears up. He questioned if this was appropriate.
Recently, Michael Clarke, Australia’s cricket captain, broke down on national TV discussing the tragic passing of teammate Phil Hughes. Many a blogger commented on how powerful the moment was as a positive influence on young boys. This comment captured the sentiment: “Not so long ago it wouldn’t have done at all for the captain of the Aussie cricket team to cry for a mate, and say how much he loved him, publicly. Glad our boys can see this.”
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Our culture deeply conditions us to be brave and hide our feelings, particularly at work. For women leaders this is compounded by fear of being seen as weak or emotional if we tear up.
Tears at work are awkward. If you tear up (it can happen), how would you recover? If someone else at work tears up, try offering a hug or a pat on the back, or try some humour to break the tension.
Tears are a sign of vulnerability, not weakness. Brene Brown, the world’s foremost expert on vulnerability, says staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take to experience deep connections.
Real leaders cry – and real leaders also recover with grace.
Yamini Naidu is a global thought leader in storytelling and business communication. She is a director at yamininaidu.com.au, and was previously a director at One Thousand & One, a company she co-founded in 2004.