The Most Pervasive Leadership Myth You Need To Stop Believing In

Written in partnership with DN News Desk

Photo Credit: Kris Lindahl

The stoics have had their day and then some, but it still pervades the American psyche that people who greet pain and suffering with indifference make better entrepreneurs and better leaders. In this age of internet trolls, who seem to have nothing better to do than write horribly cruel comments about anyone who chooses to stand out, and a variety of social media platforms who are unfortunately programmed to boost more incendiary content, it’s increasingly difficult to not feel the sting. Even worse, this sting isn’t applied evenly. Trolls aim their most vicious attacks at anyone who isn’t an able-bodied, white, Christian heterosexual male.

In an era where we are (slowly) waking up to the rather obvious concept that diversity at all levels of leadership is not only a moral imperative, but also a tremendous catalyst for innovation, it’s becoming clear that many talented, would-be leaders are unfortunately choosing to remain in lower-level positions, not starting their own businesses, and not attempting to fulfill their potential.  They’re self-selecting themselves out of amazing careers, in part because achieving a measure of success attracts attention, and attention inevitably attracts hateful comments, slander, and threats.

And then there’s that terrible myth, that a real leader or a strong person is one who would greet such things with indifference. “Shrug it off, toughen up, don’t listen to them.” These are easy to say, but for most healthy human beings, almost impossible to do. And so many people who would be bothered by these comments are also, therefore, receiving the message that they aren’t “real” leaders or “strong” people. The truth is, there are a few groups of people who perhaps wouldn’t be bothered, but as many of us have come to understand, narcissists and sociopaths don’t always make the best leaders either. It’s not surprising, but a sad fact, that every day in America, we are losing some of our brightest talents, not to another company, not to another country, but to internet bullies.

Admittedly, Kris Lindahl, as an able-bodied white male, does not receive the level of trolling some others do. But his meteoric rise from starting his own brokerage (Kris Lindahl Real Estate) in 2018 to having a team of hundreds of agents across multiple states, and surpassing $1 billion in sales in under two years, has attracted quite a bit of attention throughout the Midwest. Most of the attention has been overwhelmingly positive, but he’s been the target of significant online bullying as well.

“Kris Lindahl’s billboards can go to hell,” one Reddit troll felt the need to put out into the world. Another said, “He has a punchable face, that’s for sure.” And there have been false rumors circulating around the internet about Lindahl almost since the first day he saw undeniable success. Lindahl is not a stoic. If anything, he’s actually a softie. And yes, reading hateful comments bothers him. But he chooses to embrace his vulnerability instead of faulting himself for feeling that way and giving the trolls yet another easy win.

“We’re still being taught that vulnerability and moments of self-doubt mean that you’re not qualified to lead.  But today’s consumers are craving authenticity.  They have seen behind the curtain. During the housing crisis, some of the biggest financial institutions, who previously had acted completely invulnerable, were revealed to be one big house of cards. Those people, who were all supposed to be brilliant and have no failings, made some very human, very bad decisions. So today’s consumers will forgive you for being human or making a mistake. What makes them suspicious of you is being fake…acting like you’re perfect all the time. They associate that with arrogance, not with talent. These days, your vulnerability is your biggest strength,” Lindahl states.

And as far as coping with the inevitable bullying, which doesn’t seem to be dissipating any time soon, Lindahl recommends a combination of acceptance and practice. “It doesn’t feel great to hear someone making comments about my business or how I look,” Lindahl concludes. “But after the 50th time you’ve heard the same insult, it just doesn’t hit you quite so hard.”