One of the first lessons in leadership I remember being taught was “Be an old shoe, old hat kind of person.” Meaning you don’t want to be like a new pair of shoes. Sure, those new shoes may look shiny and blingy, but they begin to rub your feet the wrong way after a while. If you walk for any length of time in those new shoes you get a blister.
Instead, you want to be like that old pair of shoes that are scuffed, and worn, and broken in. They may not be as trendy and fashionable as those new shoes, but they are comfortable. They are practical. You can easily walk a mile in those old shoes.
How can you be an “old shoe” kind of person?
Make people feel comfortable. Don’t make people feel like to be around you they have to wear new pants and a new suit and new accessories and eat with the proper fork. Make sure that anyone that you are around can just be themselves; they can relax in their old shoes. Accept people as they are.
Don’t focus on you. Old shoes don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t have to be the center of attention. The best way to exemplify this old shoe trait in your typical conversation is to focus on others. Ask them questions about themselves. Appreciate people for who they are.
Be solid. People shouldn’t have to tip-toe around you. They shouldn’t be afraid that they are going to get mud on you. You’re the old shoe. Give people the freedom to rough house with you, to run in the rain, to be adventurous and take risks. Be non-judgmental with people.
Be predictable. People know what to expect with their old shoes. People can always depend on their old shoes. Be emotionally stable.
And lastly, show your blemishes. New shoes are obsessed with being flawless. You should never trust someone trying to be perfect all the time. An old shoe person has their flaws exposed. John C. Maxwell says, “If you want to impress people share your victories. If you want to empower people share your failures.” Be open with people.
In the movie Fight Club, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton have this exchange when they first meet on the airplane:
- Brad: “I get it. That’s clever.”
- Edward: “Thanks.”
- Brad: “How’s that working out for you?”
- Eddie: “What?”
- Brad: “Being clever.”
- Ed: “….”
There are many things about myself that I’d like to change. One is to stop trying to be clever all the time. I’ll admit that sometimes I spend too much time in a conversation trying to think of something wistfully poignant or utterly profound to slip into the dialogue.
Trying to always be clever, is being a new shoe. You may look good in the window, but when people are ready to get to work, to play, to go on a journey–they’ll always go with their old shoes.
People may admire the incredible; but they will follow the credible. (<– Tweet this)
We humans have the desire to be exceptional, to stand out, to impress. To be incredible. But being incredible–impressing people–does not empower, uplift, or encourage them. Leaders need to be credible.
1. so extraordinary as to seem impossible: incredible speed.
2. not credible; hard to believe; unbelievable: The plot of the book is incredible.
1. capable of being believed; believable: a credible statement.
2. worthy of belief or confidence; trustworthy: a credible witness.