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Crying Like a Leader

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

 Here’s an idea to help you strengthen your emotional intelligence. Reading time: 3:52.

     The four-star general –all 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds of him — was scared. Not of the battlefield.

General Norman Schwarzkopf

General Norman Schwarzkopf

    After all he led the US coalition of troops from 30 countries to victory in the Persian Gulf War in 1991.

     No General Norman Schwarzkopf was scared of even more than the demands of war when he became the first US general in 46 years to win a major war.

    In fact he was scared of those armed and– even  those UNARMED-who seemed less than human, especially when you looked them in the eye: They couldn’t or wouldn’t cry.

     “Frankly, any man who doesn’t cry scares me a little bit,” Schwarzkopf admitted to Barbara Walters on ABC television’s 20/20 program in March 1991. “I don’t think I would like a man who was incapable of enough emotion to get tears in his eyes every now and then. That person scares me; he ‘s not a human being.”

    Leaders cry.

    Yes, generals cry, Schwarzkopf asserted.  General Ulysses S. Grant cried when he learned of Lincoln’s death.  General Eisenhower wiped away tears when he saw the planes take off on the eve of D-day knowing he could be sending most of them to their deaths. And the Commander-in-Chief, President Abraham Lincoln wept when he visited the injured soldiers during the Civil War.

     The most effective leaders know that their tears–rooted in empathy and grounded in a well-developed emotional intelligence–are part and parcel of their humanity.

    Leaders realize that expressing their humanity (crying) and connecting to the feelings and concerns of others (relationship building) is the crux of leadership.

      In fact, a study at Penn State said tears in a man are a sign of honesty and another study reported in the Journal of Psychology of Men & Masculinity  found that football players who cried had higher levels of self-esteem that gave them a competitive edge on and off the field.

    Real men cry—WITH others.

    In fact the most authentic criers first “see their own tears in the other person’s eyes” observes Reverend Forrest Church in his book Lifecraft: The Art of Meaning in the Everyday. Small wonder that man is the only animal on earth that cries.

No Pity Party

    The tears of a leader are shed for what is significant to others – what’s pithy—not what’s a pity. No leader ever throws a Pity Party.

President Obama cries thanking his campaign staff

President Obama cries thanking his campaign staff

     They’re too busy turning the spotlight on their followers.

     They’re too busy streaming their tears and the tears and fears of their followers into a river of mutual caring and comfort filled with a collective trust in the present and hope for the future.

    They’re too busy focused on letting down their personal guard and letting their followers get in very close, so close that the follower’s can see themselves in the leader’s eyes and the leader can see himself or herself in the eyes of their followers.

    Consider Barack Obama on November 7, 2012, the morning after winning re-election as President of the United States of America.

      The President teared up thanking his volunteers and campaign staff at his Chicago campaign headquarters while focusing on their feelings more than on his own. There were no national television cameras in that room. This was to be a more personal, more intimate. let-down-your-hair moment of triumph that he clearly earned. Yet Obama quickly turned the spotlight on his followers.

      “Even before last night’s results, I felt that the work I had done in running for office had come full circle because what you guys have done means that the work that I’m doing is important,” Obama said, wiping away a tear.

       Then choking up, he added:

        “I’m really proud of all of you. The most important thing you need to know is that your journey’s just beginning,” Obama said. “You’re just starting. And whatever good we do over the next four years will pale in comparison to whatever you guys end up accomplishing in the years and years to come.”

       Maybe even become a president or a four-star general who cries. Like a leader.

Today’s ImproveMINT

Cry with others to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

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