In case you don't know the name Ronda Rousey, let us do a quick introduction: she is the most dominant female athlete in history. She was an Olympic champion in Judo and she now dominates the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
What is interesting and relevant for business leaders, however, is how her vulnerability has won her die-hard fans. In one respect, it's not her mixed martial arts skills that wins fans - it's how she shows her vulnerability and humanity. That is the leadership lesson we want to discuss today.
To be an MMA fighter, you need to be tough. But MMA fights do not last 24 hours, which means that toughness does not have to be there every second of every day. A little vulnerability can go a long way and that has been proven by UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey. There are also valuable lessons sales leaders can take from her story.
An Ongoing Fight
Rousey's journey through life has not always been paved with glory. She's had to fight since birth. Her first fight came when her mother’s umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and nearly ended her life. But Rousey scored a victory.
She did not say her first word until the age of four as doctors believed her to actually have brain damage. Yet, she caught on at the age of six when she first began speaking. She had a father as a role model up until the age of eight. It was then that Ron Rousey committed suicide. Ronda then turned to her mother, who was a former judo champion and sixth-degree black belt.
She became Rousey's first judo instructor, instilling a militant training method with no room for clemency. Rousey was forced to train and fight through broken bones, dislocations, and even dog bites. All of that occurred before the age of 16. It was then that she left home and began training for the 2004 Olympics where she took ninth place in judo.
Rousey then had to fight off some bad luck over the next few years. A verbally abusive and unfaithful boyfriend along with an uncompassionate mother, who turned her loose in the world, were just a couple of harsh realities she faced day in and day out. She fought through that adversity and went on to earn a bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics.
Nevertheless, the adversity continued to mount.
Counter Punching Life
After the 2008 Olympics, a bronze medal could only get Rousey a job as a bartender. And it wasn't long before she took her work home with her. Alcohol and cigarettes became a part of her daily diet and she soon added marijuana and Vicodin to the menu. Depression started to set in as there was no set goal for her future. Like so many people, she was on an uncharted path through life. Then, hope suddenly came in a most unusual form. While working at the bar, Rousey noticed something called MMA on one of the televisions.
Her MMA training soon began, but there were still plenty of fights with life outside of the gym. There were times Rousey had to sleep in her car when she didn't have a small, dingy apartment to call home. Another poor choice of a boyfriend stole her car as Rousey worked multiple jobs just to try and make ends meet. However, she was able to fight off depression and long run of bad luck as she channeled all her energy into becoming an MMA champion.
It was success from the very start as Rousey disposed of opponents at a record pace. Her first three fights lasted a combined 64 seconds. Winning in dramatic fashion just kept on coming. She is currently 12-0 with only one of those victories lasting more than one round. But her victories have numbered far greater than that as she has been counter punching life since birth.
The power of vulnerability
Rousey is now recognized as a superstar with a legion of fans all over the world. However, it is not just her toughness and unblemished MMA record that has endeared her to so many people. The way she has been so open, honest and humble about her story has built a loyal and rather large following.
Sales leaders and all leaders alike can take quite a few lessons from the way Rousey has chosen to present herself to the world. As tough as she is, she's admitted her vulnerability and has even shed some tears in an interview she held with the UFC where they discussed the tragedy of her father's death and the impact it's had on her family.
In sales, it is okay for leaders to be vulnerable. One way to show that vulnerability is to ask for help. That shows vulnerability, something that should not be mistaken for a weakness. Everyone in the sales world has needed help at one time or another. Hearing a leader ask for help shows that no one person can do a job alone. It also works to create empathy and trust with sales reps.
Sales leaders rely heavily on communication and intertwining that with vulnerability can have an extremely positive effect. That means that leaders cannot let their ego make its way into conversations with their sales reps. Rousey does not tell her story with the persona of being arguably the world's best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Sales leaders can effectively communicate the same way. The end result could be non-judgmental conversations where team members feel comfortable enough to say anything, which has the potential to build a better overall team dynamic.
Many times, sales leaders are looked upon as part of a different team. They are not always viewed as people who can relate to their sales reps. Rousey is an MMA champion, not something that the average person can relate to. However, the adversity she endured is something just about everyone can understand. That kind of empathy is something all sales leaders should strive to establish with their salespeople.
For sales leaders, empathy means understanding their sales reps. That understanding could provide ample reasoning for a poor performance and enable sales leaders to replace blame with help. However, to achieve that, there must be empathy in place. And that empathy must be built on a pillar of vulnerability.