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Good Bosses Show Their Human Side. But What If the Boss Is Freaking Out?

Six entrepreneurs talk about finding the line between being vulnerable, and unsettling your team.

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This story appears in the September 2022 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Image Credit: Pete Ryan

1. Ask for help (and acknowledge you need it).

"Last year, I was really stressed about our performance and felt like I was in it alone. During a meeting, I was very vulnerable and told my team I needed support and solutions from them. I also acknowledged that I had not always been open to receiving that support and external feedback, and I would change my behavior to make others more comfortable taking on more of a leadership role." — Amira Rasool, founder and CEO, The Folklore Group

2. Speak with purpose, not just emotion.

"When we tested our new e-commerce platform, we were hit with a six-hour site outage. The next day, in a team meeting, I said the outage felt like a gut punch. Afterward, our head of HR pulled me aside and urged me to not share that type of feedback. Although I felt I was being authentic, I'd also freaked people out. My advice is to take a beat and decide what you want to convey, so it lands the way you want." — Charlie Cole, CEO, FTD

Related: Why Vulnerability Is a Strong Business Leader's Most Powerful Weapon

3. Help people hear the whole message.

"In a recent team meeting, I shared that I felt some fear and anxiety about the economy, but was confident we would come out of this downturn stronger. Later, I heard that some team members didn't digest the optimistic part of that message. I am still trying to figure out how to modulate emotion while remaining authentic — but for now, I'll keep sharing, and repeat key messages so employees can digest it once they've come to terms with their own emotions." — Godard Abel, CEO and cofounder, G2

4. Keep it in perspective.

"I experienced a health scare recently when delivering my twins. What should have been a routine 20-minute C-section turned into a four-hour complicated surgery. Fortunately, the babies and I are healthy, but that put everything into perspective. We always try to remind our team — especially when things get stressful, as we work at an accelerated pace — to maintain a level of lightness. I am also a big proponent of a 'done is better than perfect' mindset." — Barbora Samieian, cofounder and director, Sundays

Related: Want to See the Future? Six Founders Share Their Secrets for Making Savvy Business Predictions

5. Separate yourself from the business.

"Part of being a leader is shouldering the major stressors, resolving things on behalf of your team, and sharing only when it's appropriate and helpful. In contrast, I've found that sharing your more human side along the way doesn't frighten the team; it increases your connection. For example, I've been very open about things I've struggled with, like burnout." — Alex Zaccaria, cofounder and CEO, Linktree

6. Lean on your personal support system.

"Founders need emotional support systems outside of work. I needed mine recently, when an investor didn't come through on a large commitment during our last raise. This resulted in a lot of sleepless nights and panic attacks for me, but I had to keep my team moving forward. So that's what I did — while relying on my husband's quiet strength, connecting with my family, and long walks." — Anu Sharma, cofounder and CEO, Millie

Related: Being Vulnerable Is the Boldest Act of Business Leadership

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