Dak Prescott is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. In 2016, he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year. He's a two-time Pro Bowl honoree.
He also, as he discussed in an interview with Graham Bensinger, suffers from depression:
All throughout this quarantine and this off-season, I started experiencing emotions I've never felt before. Anxiety for the main one. And then, honestly, a couple of days before my brother passed, I would say I started experiencing depression.
I didn't know necessarily what I was going through, to say the least, and hadn't been sleeping at all.
Where dealing with depression is concerned, he's far from alone. According to the World Health Organization, over 264 million people around the world are affected.
Even so, Fox Sports personality Skip Bayless feels Prescott should have kept the subject to himself:
You are commanding an entire franchise. They're all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team.
Because of all that, I don't have sympathy for him going public with, "I got depressed. I suffered depression early in Covid to the point where I couldn't even go work out." Look, he's the quarterback of America's Team.
Yep: According to Bayless, as the quarterback of an NFL team, as a person in the "ultimate leadership position in sports," Prescott should have never let himself appear vulnerable. Publicly revealing a weakness can "affect your team's ability to believe in you in the toughest spot."
Even though showing vulnerability is exactly what many great leaders do.
In the process of writing The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle went inside incredibly successful organizations like Pixar, SEAL Team Six, and the San Antonio Spurs to uncover the skills that explain how groups made up of diverse individuals learn to function effectively as a team.
As Coyle says:
When you think about great leadership, you tend to think about big moments: daring decisions and inspiring speeches; moments when a great leader shows the path forward. But in my research, I kept seeing leaders deliver something different. They weren't big moments, but rather little moments of confession, when they admitted to a mistake or a weakness.
Dave Cooper, a Navy SEAL, put it this way: "The most important words a leader can say is, 'I screwed that up.'"
That might sound counterintuitive: Think "leader" and you might picture a person with seemingly unshakable confidence. Admitting a weakness would only seem to diminish credibility and authority.
In fact, the opposite happens. As Coyle says, strong teams can only be built when members of a team feel comfortable telling one another the truth -- and that process has to start with the leader showing his or her own fallibility. In short, with a leader not only telling but showing that admitting a failing or weakness or vulnerability is OK.
Coyle calls the result a vulnerability loop, which works like this: One person admits a mistake or a shortcoming. That allows others to do the same. In time, the process creates a foundation for high-candor exchanges that build trust and help drive team performance.
According to Coyle, "Vulnerability loops determine whether a group is going to be about merely appearing strong, or about actually facing hard truths and learning together."
Prescott, by his willingness to be vulnerable instead of appearing "strong," is clearly willing to spark a vulnerability loop.
And, in the process, to help other people. According to Prescott, good leaders don't have to pretend to be tough:
I think that is a fake leader. Being a leader is about being genuine and being real. As I said, if I wouldn't have talked about those things to the people I did, I wouldn't have realized my friends and a lot more people go through them. And that they are as common as they are ...
I don't care how big a person you are. If you are not mentally healthy and you're not thinking the right way, then you are not going to be able to lead people the right way.
Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable send a clear message: My goal -- our goal -- is to learn together.
We can be who we are. We can tell one another the truth.
We don't have to protect ourselves -- we can protect one another.
And get better together.