Some leaders work mightily not to expose any vulnerability. They wrap themselves in a know-it-all protective coating, offering a ready answer to almost any question. They refuse to say, "I don't know."
When you're brave enough to let your staff know that you do not have all the answers, you motivate even the cynics to view you positively. They will see that you're a gutsy manager who's willing to fail publicly, admit ignorance or look foolish for the greater good.
Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, grappled with declining sales and announced plans to close hundreds of Starbucks earlier this year. He wrote an impassioned e-mail to employees that combined a message of hope with a dose of genuine hurt. He allowed himself to appear vulnerable as a way of galvanizing the troops to weather the tough economy.
Whether you're fearful, unsure or disappointed, express your emotions with clarity and authenticity. Don't overdo it—drama queens make poor managers. But by leveling with people in human terms, you appeal to their core decency. That's among the most powerful motivators around.