“But Your Life Looks So Perfect on Facebook”

I just got off the phone with an old friend. She had several important concerns weighing on her heart. We talked about them for a while, and then she shared:

“You know I was talking to another friend about this and she said, “but your life looks so perfect on Facebook.”

I took a quick look at her Facebook page. Of course it did. It’s Facebook. Who wants to put their troubles out there for the world to see? All those great pics are absolutely true. Much in her life is fantastic. And, like every single one of us, other parts are messy.

So What’s This Got To Do With Leadership?

As leaders we work hard to present a “together” image. How this shows up varies on the organization, context and culture.

Maybe it’s…

  • the right shoes
  • perfectly organized meetings
  • perfectly put together wardrobes
  • perfectly polished speeches
  • stories of how your bold career moves worked out just right
  • an office full of awards
  • happy pictures of your happy family
  • ?

I’ll pause here to let you fill in the blank for your world. What is your organization’s equivalent to “looking good on Facebook.”

The truth is, you are also messy. I am also messy. Every member of your team is messy. Life is messy.

We want to believe our leaders have it all together.

We are inspired to think that “perfect” is achievable.

“Perfect” can also be intimidating.

Beyond the “Facebook” Fantasy

What if you…

  • Shared a bit more of your real journey?
  • Anticipated the angst your team members must have in their lives?
  • Made it okay to show up real.
  • Make it safe for your team to talk about the angst?
  • Don’t hold “it” against them.
  • ?

Hot Mess Leadership: When Image Becomes Dangerous

The term“hot mess” typically refers to someone disheveled on the outside with some redeeming qualities on the inside. Urban dictionary defines a “hot mess” as

” when one’s thought or appearance are in a state of disarray, but they maintain an undeniable attractiveness or beauty”

Leaders can go a long way by getting clothes that fit, shoes that shine, and well-kept hair and nails.

Work on your magnetism. Refrain from stupid outbursts. You will have another leg up.

It’s important to avoid being a “hot mess”.
Cleaning up the outside matters.

The more dangerous problem is when the “hot” is on the outside and the “mess” is on the inside.

In other words, you look the part,

You have a strong leadership presence.

But, you don’t operate with integrity or care about your team.

It’s tricky, because your connections or image may open doors.

A seat at the table must be used carefully.

A Few Signs You’re a Hot Mess Leader

  • You spend more time planning your outfit than your presentation
  • You make your team cater to your maintenance needs
  • You learn all you can about your boss, but know very little about those who work on your team
  • You never get past the small talk at events
  • The spend more time on networking than leading
  • (what would you add?)

The truth is, as leaders, sometimes we are “hot” and sometimes we are “messy” on both the inside and the outside.

We need good mirrors for both.