Inspirational Leaders Are Masters Of Self-Disclosure

by Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Many of my coaching clients aspire to be more inspirational as leaders. They want to have the “deeper” sort of relationship with their team, with their customers, even with their vendors, that encourages a very meaningful, often personal sort of dialogue. But some of them think they can encourage their people to “open up” without doing so themselves.

Whether you own your own business, or you exercise entrepreneurial leadership within an organization, it’s becoming increasingly important to work in the emotional space where inspiration occurs. People are worried about life in our society these days, and many are hungry for inspirational leadership. So it’s important to realize that open dialogue is becoming more of a “must-have” than a “nice-to-have” in high-performing organizations, and the leader’s ability to use appropriate self-disclosure is a prerequisite for such relationships.

I’ve had more than one conversation with a client in which he or she tells me that a direct-report, or a customer, came into the office and “dumped” a personal, emotional issue. “It was very uncomfortable,” one such client told me. “That’s just not my thing.”


As with other clients who share this issue, I asked this client whether he wanted to learn how to discourage such disclosures in the future, or learn how to get better at working with them when they do happen. He wanted a little of both; I told him he can’t have it both ways. Leaders who send the sort of signals that discourage personal disclosure are not typically the sort who can get enough practice to get good at handling it. And those leaders generally are not going to be seen as sources of inspiration.

I’m happy to say this client eventually realized the importance of personal, emotional dialogue to his agenda of developing inspirational leadership, and today he’s a pretty strong dialogue partner. Like other clients who develop a “spike” in inspirational leadership, he came to realize that you generally want to encourage the deepest possible relationship with your best people, and that you have to “ante up” with disclosure of your own to make that happen.

What makes a good disclosure? Start by realizing you don’t have to tell everything about yourself to anyone – and, in fact, that’s probably not a good idea. I don’t need to know how your childhood went, or what your religious views are, in order to be inspired by you. But it might be great to learn how you got where you are. Or why you chose this profession. Or why this or that value is so near and dear to you. Or how you handled the same mistake I just made, and what you learned from that. You can usually disclose those sorts of things to me through brief anecdotes, without being grandiose or verbose… and the payoff is often a bit deeper relationship with a bit more inspired teammate.

Leaders who want to portray themselves as invulnerable, and without weaknesses, can usually pull that off. People will see them as impenetrable stone walls, perhaps even is pillars of strength. And that might motivate a few other stoic workers… but it will rarely make you the sort of inspirational leader folks are increasingly searching for these days.


 Michael Hume is a speaker, writer, and consultant specializing in helping people maximize their potential and enjoy inspiring lives. As part of his inspirational leadership mission, he coaches executives and leaders in growing their personal sense of well-being through wealth creation and management, along with personal vitality.Those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to make money “one less thing to worry about” can learn more about working with Michael at wanting to jump-start their vitality can browse through the best (and most travel-friendly) nutraceuticals on the market at and his wife, Kathryn, divide their time between homes in California and Colorado. They are very proud of their offspring, who grew up to include a homemaker, a rock star, a service talent, and a television expert. Two grandchildren also warm their hearts! Visit Michael’s web site at
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