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Admitting you have dyslexia as a CEO can be daunting. For John Chambers, it happened when he was CEO of Cisco in an unplanned moment as he responded to a child on Take Your Child to Work Day. At that moment, he wanted to reassure the young girl about her disability, but he admitted on the microphone that he was dyslexic.

That moment of vulnerability was transformative for John’s leadership and helped him realize the power of his challenges. Instead of focusing on his weakness, he could turn it into a strength and encourage others to do the same.

John told me this:

“All of us have challenges in life. How you deal with your challenges, even if they’re self-inflicted, determines more who you are than how you handle your successes.”

Early in his career, John thought people wanted leaders who were superhuman and didn’t have any weaknesses. But he learned that he was wrong about that. Before he could share his weakness, he had to be comfortable with himself. But if people trust you, sharing your weakness allows them to get closer to you. After sharing about his dyslexia for the first time, John says he got more emails from that session than any other session because people understood him better and wanted to share their appreciation and similar situations.

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