Clowns, Empathy, Vulnerability Authenticity and Dancing

While making breakfast this morning for my kids, I looked out my kitchen window to see the other lights turning on in my neighbors’ windows. Instead of giving my kids their morning dose of Encanto songs they always ask for, I decided to blast one of my all-time favorites: Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears“. But when I went to put it on, I played “Tears of a Clown” by mistake. I always get those two songs mixed up. I love them both, but they are essentially the same song.

Both are about hiding one’s sadness behind a happy face, like the clown in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci who makes people laugh while disguising his own sadness. So while standing in front of the kitchen window in clear view of my neighbors, making breakfast and dancing like one of Smokey’s Miracles to “Tears of a Clown”, I was thinking about empathy, vulnerability, and authenticity.

We are better colleagues when we are empathic. By empathetic, I mean trying to really listen to people and see behind the costume they are wearing and know they may be struggling.

We are better colleagues and leaders when we are able to show some of our own vulnerabilities. It builds connections. It shows our humanity. It allows for an open environment. It shows that we need each other. And finally, it allows us to bring more of our authentic self to the office.

A touch of vulnerability is at the heart of all charisma. Think of all of your favorite characters in movies or literature. There is always that touch of vulnerability that makes them feel authentic and real. It makes you root for them and want them to succeed. And ultimately, we cannot succeed in organizations or as organizations if we do not root for those around us and want them to succeed.

So letting myself look like a fool at the window as I tried to dance like I was in Motown, was a strong show of my own early morning vulnerability. I wish someone had told my younger self not to be so afraid of looking ridiculous. I would have danced, danced and danced.