Is It OK To Admit I Have Flaws?

"I feel like as a Founder I've got to put up a persona of being this perfect leader. Yet, 99% of the thoughts and emotions I'm feeling are my flaws pouring out of every socket. When is it OK for me to be comfortable admitting my flaws?"

February 19th, 2020   |    By: Wil Schroter

We're all freaked out about sharing our flaws.

We're worried that employees, investors, customers and just about anyone else will think less of us. Maybe they won't invest, maybe they won't buy our products, or maybe they won't come to work for us.

Sharing our flaws is terrifying. But it's also one of the most liberating things we can do not just as Founders, but as the weirdo humans we all are.

You're the Founder/CEO of Startups — do you have flaws?

Geez, where do I begin?

I've been building startups for nearly 3 decades and I have tons of flaws. I've got massive ADHD (I can't even proofread this sentence without losing focus), terminal pain, crippling anxiety — and I can't dance to save my life.

For a long time I would have never even considered telling anyone that.

But over time I've come to learn, especially among other Founders, that sharing our vulnerabilities has become one of the most honest forms of connection we can have, especially in an era of photoshopped social personas and manufactured egos.

Sharing our flaws builds trust because it's one of the few things in life no one really lies about. It also invites others to engage in an honest place, which is very powerful.

How do I share my flaws without looking like a train wreck?

The key is to talk about how we manage our flaws.

A while back I wrote about "How I Harness my Insane Startup Anxiety" which detailed exactly what my flaws looked like and how I'm working to judo move that shit into something I can turn into a superpower.

Not every flaw will become a superpower.

Some, like depression, are just a giant challenge that doesn't necessarily lead to a huge benefit. But if we're demonstrating an openness to own and manage our flaws, even if it's all cost and no benefit, it shows serious responsibility that people will look for and admire in a leader.

When should I probably keep my flaws to myself?

Just because being vulnerable is honest doesn't mean it's always appropriate.

As leaders, we also have a responsibility to take time to process the consequences of our flaws, and ideally make preparations to manage them, before simply puking them out in social media or at a company lunch.

We have to understand that our flaws are a business challenge like any other, and the folks around us are going to assume we've got a plan for it.

Maybe we don't. But it's usually better to present those flaws, or for that matter almost any other challenge in our business, when we also have a cogent plan of attack.

It's not our flaws that are the challenge — it's how we handle that challenge that people care about.

In Case You Missed It

The Emotional Cost of Being a Founder. When we talk about building startups, we talk about lots of costs: Staffing costs, the cost of capital, cost per acquisition, and opportunity cost. But we never talk about the biggest cost – the emotional cost.

3 Benefits of Emotional Intelligence for Today’s Business Leaders. Leaders who can recognize their own emotions in relation to how they affect their behavior are better able to control their own impulses and handle change.

Why Do I Feel So Alone? No one ever tells you in the “Starting a Company” brochure that the journey will not only include crippling anxiety, drowning in personal debt and endless challenges — but also a healthy dose of personal loneliness.

About the Author

Wil Schroter

Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes BizplanClarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.

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