We all fear something, love something, have lost something. The truth is that everyone has their thing and to understand this is to be a more compassionate leader.
On November 5th, NBA star Kevin Love discovered this in astounding fashion.
He was on his home court as his Cleveland Cavaliers were playing the Atlanta Hawks. During a timeout in the third quarter, Love suddenly turned and sprinted towards the locker room. His heart was racing, his head was spinning, he was short of breath. He was absently dashing from room to room, eventually sprawling himself out on his back in the training room trying to get his breath, wondering if he was going to die.
After a trip to the Cleveland Clinic, Love discovered he'd just suffered a grade-A panic attack.
Huh? What the hell is that? (So Love thought.)
On leaving the clinic, Love's first reaction was that he was glad his teammates and the public wouldn't find out. The season hadn't started well for the Cavs, Love wasn't sleeping well, and he was working through some family issues.
The powder keg went boom.
Surprisingly, it was the quiet thereafter that was deafening for Love. A few days later he realized how bothered he was that he was so concerned with people finding out--it was the classic "I'm a man, we deal with things" mentality, and it didn't feel right anymore.
So Love decided to speak out earlier this month, baring his soul in a powerful essay for The Players' Tribune. He dared to be vulnerable so that he might advance the national conversation on mental health and encourage more openness.
Love's core message: "Everyone is going through something that we can't see."
In the tough-guy world of professional basketball, Kevin Love took a stand and stood up to what he initially felt was (in his words) "a form of weakness that could derail my success in sports or make me seem weird or different."
Here's why what Kevin Love did is so important.
In role-modeling vulnerability, Love provided a powerful validation mechanism. It let us collectively know that we're not alone in quietly suffering from mental health issues, and invited others to open up about it. He advanced a national conversation about the need to open up and converse.
I have zero doubt that Love's courage to share his story--inspired by fellow NBA star DeMar DeRozen's own openness about battling depression--will inspire others to share their story and get help.
This is what leaders do.
They role model vulnerability, regardless of their title or status, creating a connection and common bond. They let everyone know that we're all in this together. Leading with vulnerability is leading from the heart.
And here's the thing so many of us still miss--exposing your frailties doesn't repel others. It draws them to you. It's a motivating force that compels others to want to help in the cause.
It can be the difference between commitment and compliance. Who would you feel more committed to, a leader that professed to have all the answers all the time or one who admitted what they didn't know and where they needed help?
No contest: All of the leaders to whom I've been more drawn over my career were the ones well-versed in vulnerability. Practicing vulnerability is also a tremendous source of personal growth, helping you to develop compassion, overcome fear, and to be more respectful towards others.
Now, I wish I could tell you it was easy. As one of the world's leading experts on vulnerability, Brene Brown, once said: "The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I'm willing to show you. In you, it's courage and daring. In me, it's weakness."
But it's not weakness. It is perhaps the rawest and purest form of strength in existence.
Kevin Love just soared above his 6'10" frame--and you can stand just as tall. This week, do just one small thing that opens the real you up to the world.
In so doing, everybody wins.