When you introduce yourself to a stranger, the first thing they see is your face. Well unless they are looking somewhere else. 😉 So when I fell on my face earlier this week, the pain and soreness didn’t bother me half as much as the thought of a forever-blemished face. And when the the Uber driver asked if I needed him to call an ambulance, it was because he was looking at the open wounds on my face. Those wounds signified the severity of the injury, even to him.
Your face, your external representation to the world is extremely important to many of us. So when I was challenged recently on a leadership decision, I wasn’t so much hurt by the challenge. It was the potential harm to the automatic external opinion others would form. We all form opinions based on a variety of reasons, race, gender, clothing, profession and so many more. And I wanted to control the perception others had of me, shape my own story, construct my own face.
But when I look around at prominent leaders in all walks of life. Sometimes the entire nightly news is filled with captions like, “Clinton Email Scandal,” “Boehner Under Fire” and so many more. And based on the snapshot, the 30 second news clip, the opinion is formed. Hillary Clinton must have done something sketchy with her email. Boehner can’t be an effective leader because the Tea Party won’t follow him. President Obama has been characterized so negatively in so many aspects of his presidency, leadership style, parenting, it’s ridiculous. How did I think I would be immune to similar scrutiny?
So I got over it. Not immediately, but in my own way. I took an early morning breakfast with a sponsor in person, broke face and all. I resisted the urge to take an “usie” though. Some things ought not be documented.
Why? Because the meeting was important to the organization I have the responsibility to lead. It couldn’t be postponed. And whether my “broke face breakfast” makes it to my 30 second news clip or nah, my responsibility doesn’t change.
It’s funny how life can magnify the lessons you must learn. I cracked my face and my reputation was hurt so I could share this with you:
Takeaways for Leaders/Followers (We all follow someone.)
There are no perfect leaders. We all have blemishes, scars, failings. But unless you are talking to a communication expert, you can’t distill any complex decision to a 30-second news story or one scar. And if you are being covered by a 30-second news story or flat out gossip, leaders don’t have the luxury of hiding, stopping or being afraid.
I must admit I have been hurt by the depth and breadth of the 30-second sound bytes. But I have been blessed by sharing my damaged, real external representation to the world even when I am afraid. Today I was blessed to remember to use my voice to encourage others. And when I introduce myself to others, I know who I am and what I stand for, so that their opinion doesn’t matter as much.
“The function of freedom is to free someone else.” – Toni Morrison
These two blessings encountered me in Fresno last week, byproducts of sharing in the midst of “broke face.”