“Leadership is all about relationships and to be in relationship (with anyone) is to be vulnerable. Every single day, leaders are called to navigate uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure – the only choice is to do it consciously or unconsciously; to lean into the vulnerability or to push it away.” – Brené Brown

In our fast-paced, instant gratification society, new ideas truly are a dime a dozen. We are bombarded almost hourly with a new this, a new that, this new app, that new gadget. It just never stops. And I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. Actually, I find it quite invigorating and, but for the courageous thinkers behind all this innovation, where would we be as a society?

What fascinates me to think about is this: What about all the incredible ideas that never see the light of day? What about those world-changing ideas that just happened to have come through the minds of those who, for whatever reason, don’t take action to make their ideas come to life? Can you imagine this world if there were no risk – personal, emotional or financial – in sharing every crazy idea one ever had? Can you imagine if we, as leaders, were vulnerable enough to share our ideas before we shoot them down ourselves?

Some ideas never get expressed out of the fear of rejection or humiliation. Some get expressed but retreat as soon as the first objection hits. Still other ideas move forward, but outside forces such as money, politics, environment or the agendas of others bring them to a screeching halt or, worse, a slow painful death. And some thoughts never fully materialize into full-fledged ideas because of the pain of past experience from within those from whom the thoughts originate.

I recently watched an amazing video by TED Talk superstar, Brené Brown, entitled “Why Your Critics Aren’t the Ones Who Count”: (

I highly recommend this video be added into your diet of good stuff you regularly feed yourself. Dr. Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and has spent the past thirteen years studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness and shame. She knows her stuff when it comes to vulnerability which, I would argue, is the reason that most great ideas never materialize.

The foundation of Dr. Brown’s research, as well as her books, talks and online communities is built upon this quote from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I have an idea. What if leaders are encouraged to dare greatly? To be in the arena? To truly lead, rather than manage? To inspire and to not be afraid to fail? To vigorously pursue worthy causes with no guarantee of success? And most importantly, to have the vulnerability to share their ideas, as the seed of their idea may be the thing that most changes our world for the better? Because if that seed is exposed to the sun, watered, nurtured and grown for the masses, the world is well-fed.


Betsy Westhafer is the founder of the ActionMasters Network, an online platform that offers mentorship, accountability, progress tracking and support for people who commit to taking action every day toward achieving their entrepreneurial and life goals. Betsy can be reached at or by calling 800-600-2213.

This article is reprinted from Vol. 3, No. 1, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!

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