The idea of vulnerability as a facet of strength may be a counterintuitive concept. However, it is the heart of transformational leadership which fosters trust, creativity, accountability and adaptability within teams and organizations. Yet, it is one of those topics that is often avoided as it is perceived as both a lesser emotion and a weakness.
So, let’s talk about what vulnerability is and is not. According to Brené Brown, a renowned researcher and author of Daring Greatly and The Power of Vulnerability, vulnerability is “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. To be vulnerable means to feel, sharing your trust and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.” It does not mean being soft, divulging everything you know or letting it all hang out for your team and organization to see. Rather it’s about trusting yourself “to be seen” authentically.
The purpose of an effective leader is to support, inspire and motivate those around them to reach their potential. Making a difference happens through a real connection, sharing our emotions, intentions and personal stories. Below are just a few ways to learn how you can benefit from being vulnerable and taking risks.
Vulnerability builds trust and transparency. It is through small moments that leaders model what it looks like to be open and emotionally available. This is done by sharing thoughts and ideas frequently as well as emotional check-ins. Everyone is good at something, but not everyone is good at everything. Leaders will admit that there is always more to learn – it sends a message of humility to the team. Emotional check-ins are done by asking, “what has your attention?”, and listening to the answer attentively. By creating a space to be candid and vulnerable, it allows others to feel a sense of trust and security to do the same.
Vulnerability inspires creativity and teamwork. When a leader acknowledges to the team that they don’t have all the answers, the result can have a profound impact on a team. This example of vulnerability can create a space for the team to open up to share new ideas and exchange feedback. The introduction of new ideas naturally brings excitement but can also trigger feelings of judgment, fear and uncertainty. It is through theses feelings of discomfort and the risk to trust in each other that the team strengthens its connection and inspires great ideas to flourish.
Vulnerability instills accountability. Let’s face it, everyone has issues, whether the issues are professional or personal. With the stress that comes with life and the workplace, sometimes situations get the best of us and a mistake is made – it happens! It doesn’t matter the title, rank, nor position of authority being held, true leaders take accountability and own their decisions. It’s a level of commitment to our inner-self to speak from the heart, act with courage and have the ability to own our mistakes. It’s embracing the flaws and taking responsibility. When a leader walks the walk, it sets the level of trust and expectation for the team.
Vulnerability fosters adaptability. As a leader,being intuitive to yourself and to your team gives incredible insight into how to lead more effectively through shifts of organizational change. When the team feels they have the emotional support and confidence from their leader to make good decisions, they do not fear nor think twice. Their engagement and clarity on the goals and objectives allows them to adapt to the challenges they face in a workplace that is ever-changing. This flexibility stems from the leader’s ability to show strength (vulnerability) and to embrace the connection with the team.
Vulnerable leadership requires trust, boundaries, and self-awareness. It is about being in touch with who you are, your beliefs as well as your values. A leader is responsible for the energy they bring. Be intentional, show up with courage and confidence, as it will inspire a more meaningful connection which will create a heathier workplace culture.
“You have to be honest and authentic and not hide. I think the leader today has to demonstrate both transparency and vulnerability, and with that comes truthfulness and humility.”
~ Howard Schultz ~