The Courage to Be Imperfect
It’s a sunny Monday morning in May. We’re in a hotel in Slough (the nice bit) and it’s day one of the first Marketing Academy Boot Camp for the 2018 cohort. Thirty strangers sip coffee and eat a selection of baked items. Having been through a rigorous process, each scholar would be forgiven for thinking they are surrounded by perfection. Thirty high achievers professionally and personally, thirty people endorsed by their employers for being at the top of their game, thirty individuals selected deemed to be the future of the marketing industry. That morning, as we assembled, we all took some time to quickly talk about who we are and what we do. So far so very…head girl / captain of the sports team / Oxbridge graduate / promoted ahead of my peers. So very….perfect.
Cut to day two, the thirty have now been split into three groups of ten and are embarking on two days of the Living Leader programme. In my group, as we move into introductions, the facilitator spends half an hour introducing herself. Far from reeling off her achievements, she talked about her life both personally and professionally, the eventful and dare I say it, imperfect journey she had been on to get there. What followed was six hours (yes six hours; the longest introductions on record for the Living Leader course), filled with the ten of us unshackling ourselves from our CVs, our achievements, our pursuit of perfection and instead introducing ourselves in a way that allowed us to be really seen by others. In a way that showed vulnerability, that talked about the hard times, that told the truth about our path to get to this conference room in Slough (it all sounds very X Factor but I can assure you it felt much more authentic than that).
I left the five days of boot camp feeling more connected to my fellow scholars than I do to many colleagues that I work with day in, day out. I left having been inspired by the stories of the Bootcamp speakers, some of whom had overcome incredible adversity to get to where they are today and some of whom just talked authentically about their lives, peppering their incredible achievements with mentions of marriage issues, health problems and a plethora of other things. But most, of all, I left with a massive lesson in leadership and a personal commitment to myself. That I would have the courage to be imperfect.
In her seminal TED talk on the power of vulnerability, Brene Brown talks about people who live really connected lives, who live ‘wholeheartedly’. She identifies that having the courage to be imperfect, to show vulnerability and to allow themselves to really be seen are all contributors to living a wholehearted, connected life. My experiences at boot camp showed me that these lessons could equally be applied to leadership.
This courage to be imperfect has carried into the way I’ve approached mentoring conversations, how I am using my exec coach and the ongoing relationships formed with the twenty nine other scholars. I’ve had more honest conversations with colleagues, friends and family in the last three months that I have in the previous three years and I’ll continue to go into every aspect of the scholarship knowing the experience is enriched through opening up, being vulnerable and showing the real Sandie*.
*Full disclosure, I wasn’t head girl, am not very sporty and didn’t go to Oxbridge, so perhaps vulnerability is my best asset!!