Last week, October 11th, was World Mental Health Day.
On September 16th, one of the most highly respected political leaders in the UK, Ruth Davidson, gave a comprehensive and highly open interview with the Sunday Times. The header of the interview reads:
“Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, on depression, her self‑harm scars and why she’ll never be PM”
Today let me reflect on a tweet Ruth posted on World Mental Health Day, and on where vulnerability is, in fact, a powerful strength for leaders and for all of us as humans.
So, on World Mental Health Day, Ruth Davidson tweeted:
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) October 10, 2018
(and the picture she added to her tweet was the one shown above)
I responded instinctively with the reply:
“Ruth. Thank you for being open about your own experience. Vulnerability in leadership matters.”
Now, let me be clear. Vulnerability in a “victim” space is a dangerous cocktail, but vulnerability in a space of self-awareness is very different. It can allow us to deeply understand ourselves, where we excel, where we struggle, where we can be self-reliant, where we can benefit from asking for support.
Put as an Emotional Equation (see multiple posts on these here)
Vulnerability + Self-Responsibility = Strength
We are Human Beings, we are not Human ‘Doings”.
We are not automatons, we are not invulnerable, wearing suits of armour.
Too often in human history we, as leaders, as humans, have felt we need to wear that suit of armour, to wear masks, to adopt identities that are not true to us.
Look around. See leaders around the world who pretend to be perfect, who never apologise, who never own the impact of their decisions when they go wrong. Simply ut, they don’t take responsibility, they sit in the “drama triangle“, alternating between the roles of victim, persecutor, rescuer.
The alternative to such drama? Self-responsibility.
On further reflection, the Emotional Equation above is more like a “virtuous circle”, as vulnerability and self-responsibility can feed the other positively in an upwards spiral.
I’ll, therefore, illustrate that by amending my equation changing a + to an x :
Vulnerability x Self-Responsibility = Strength