The new CEO of Uber, Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia, penned this departing note to his Expedia employees:
I have to tell you I am scared. I’ve been here at Expedia for so long that I’ve forgotten what life is like outside this place. But the times of greatest learning for me have been when I’ve been through big changes, or taken on new roles–you have to move out of your comfort zone and develop muscles that you didn’t know you had.
It remains to be seen if he can turn Uber around, but it takes great courage to admit you’re scared and many leaders won’t do it. To admit to having doubts, to being afraid, to not being perfect is to be vulnerable and many people can’t equate vulnerability with great leadership.
Once, when I received a promotion, my middle-school-aged daughter asked if I knew anything about the areas I would be leading (five divisions with over 400 people). I had to admit that my knowledge was limited, but that I was willing to learn and not afraid to ask people to help. And that I did know something about building teams. When I stepped into my new role, I began by talking with each individual supervisor, manager, director and vice president for at least 90 minutes (and there were over 55 of them). I freely admitted that I did not have all the functional expertise that they did, but if they were willing to work together with me, we could accomplish great things, and we did.
Research shows that the characteristic most people value in a leader is authenticity not perfection; honesty, not smooth answers. Yet many leaders don’t have the courage to admit vulnerability. When one does, it’s worth rooting for their success.