You know what I learned this weekend? The power of vulnerability in leadership. When asked to share a personal “fun” item about myself with a crowd this past weekend, I chose to share Spot.
Spot is a stuffed animal. He’s yellow . . . with spots. My grandson, Jadyn, gave me Spot when he heard I was heading out of town for the weekend on business. I don’t think my daughters fully expected me to pack Spot into my suitcase. Never in their wildest dreams did they think I would put him in my purse and take him up on stage with me.
One of the experiences I share with other ordinary leaders is my volunteer stint as a member of the Board of Directors for the American SAP Users Group (ASUG). This past weekend, ASUG volunteers gathered in Fort Worth, Texas, to plan the content for our year-round educational platform and our annual conference. Along with ASUG’s new CEO, Geoff Scott, and other members of the board, I sat on a panel on stage during the opening breakfast where I was asked to share a fun personal item about myself. The night before when we rehearsed for the panel, I was at a total loss for something interesting to share. And then I remembered Spot.
So, Spot shared the stage with me. When I explained why Spot was there and what he meant to me, ripples of whispers and soft laughter echoed throughout the ballroom. The rest of the weekend, I was stopped by other volunteers who either wanted to share their personal story with me or who simply wanted a photo op with Spot.
Spot was a conversation starter. Spot made people act silly. But, more, I think Spot demonstrated that I was just like everyone else who was sitting in the audience – that being up on a stage or holding a title like “Director” meant little difference between me and the rest of the attendees. My willingness to be vulnerable enough to potentially look ridiculous in front of several hundred technical wizards opened doors for me to learn from others, to hear others’ voices, to laugh and have fun.