Understanding, Transparency and Vulnerability

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How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e., approved.
— Erich Fromm

The need to ensure that people understand why we do what we do is a leadership paradox. On one hand, people buy in to “why,” not into “what.” When they understand “why,” they can get on board at a deep level. But on the other hand, hoping that onlookers understand why we do what we do can be based in insecurity, a desire for approval. This can lead to performing, to people-pleasing and eventually exhaustion. This can lead a leader far from “why” and into “what will they think?” So, they perform. Sometimes, it’s those who appear to care least about what others think who actually care most - they’ve just perfected the act through repetition.

But the person who is truly free acts from an internal sense of “why” that is not dependent upon others validating it. They do not feel the need to justify their actions. When they talk about their “why,” they’re not looking for approval; they’re simply inviting you to join. If you do not join, you also have the freedom to follow your why, or the why of another.

Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself - to his reason and his conscious - and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation
— Erich Fromm, again, of course

There are those few with whom we are vulnerable, with whom we open up and check our “why” against them to ensure we’re not off-base. But, we’re not vulnerable with everyone. We might be transparent - letting others see into our lives, sharing our stories, but vulnerability invites feedback, and feedback is not something you want from everyone. I learned this from Melissa Helser: The difference between transparency and vulnerability is vulnerability invites feedback.

The difference between transparency and vulnerability is vulnerability invites feedback.
— Melissa Helser

Be careful from whom you get your feedback. Do your thing. Do it well and do it to serve others and do it without wondering if others understand all your intentions. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Be clear. Be kind. Do no harm. Do not look over your shoulder. Be brave. Lead on.

Tommy BrownComment