Talking about vulnerability in the workplace can stop a conversation cold in its tracks. Being vulnerable is so misunderstood in our workplaces, in our boardrooms, and our relationship today. Every business executive has an opinion on the word vulnerability. They try to hide their vulnerabilities at all cost. But haven’t you been inspired, encouraged or moved by someone who had the courage to step up and share their vulnerability, to expose their true-self.
Vulnerability is a tremendous tool in the emotionally intelligent leaders quiver. Bold leaders leverage their angst into genuine connections, innovation, learning, and trust. These leaders ability, to embrace moments of vulnerability by acknowledging their true-self, taking responsibility for their emotions and asking for help is significant.
If our vulnerabilities are left unchecked, so much of our time and energy are spent in ways to combat our perceived weaknesses. Our wounds get buried deeper. Blame, defensiveness, and shame limit our ability to take risk, think big, be creative and limit our team’s ability to have trust in us as a leader.
Here are three things that leaders can do to demonstrate authentic vulnerability:
1. Be open with your own failures.
When leaders openly share their stories of failure with the people that they lead, it does two things: it gives our teams permission to take a risk and know that failure is a part of their growth. It also presents the leader as someone who is fully human, an imperfect person. When leaders always portray themselves as successful, competent and over-confident, employees hesitate to trust them as people they can connect with. Vulnerability fuels the most important relationships and can transform performance to help bring more success to an organization. The boldest act of a leader is to be publicly vulnerable.
2. Celebrate team members superiority.
When leaders admit that one of their team members has a trait or strengths that exceeds their own, and one that they wish they had, it powerfully demonstrates humility and vulnerability. Nothing builds trust like a leader admiring one he or she leads.
3. Create a vulnerability mind shift.
When we see the aspirations of our organizations through the eyes of our teams we lead great things happen. As we step back and allow others to take the lead in conversations, our teams will feel more connected, invested and a deep sense of commitment to the shared vision of the organization. The most powerful moment a leader can provide is just to sit and listen. Sometimes leaders need to stop driving the conversation, stop painting the castles on the hill, or developing the ideas to implement. As leaders, we need to stop answering the tough questions and start asking questions.
When we set our egos aside, we remain engaged and focused on the conversation. We can fully hear and embrace our teams’ ideas. When our egos get in the way, and it will. We need to remind ourselves that it is not about me, but the team I surround myself with.
"Vulnerability and trust lie at the heart of every great team, and as a leader, we must create the environment for trust to be fostered by being genuinely vulnerable with our team members. "
- Brene Brown -