29 Jun Vulnerable is the New Strong in Leadership and Life
There are TED Talks about it, research on it, examples and stories of why vulnerability is a good thing … and yet so many of us struggle with even the thought of letting our guard down and letting others see who we really are. Why is it so scary? Because somewhere, sometime, we let ourselves be vulnerable and we got hurt and we told ourselves “never again”. Who do we believe, ourselves and our story, which seems very logical and real because it’s ours, or the so called experts? Really what do they know? Easy for them to say I should be vulnerable; they don’t know what’s going on inside of me.
Actually they likely do know exactly what it feels like because most of us share similar stories as it relates to this topic. Most of us were taught that it was bad or weak to be vulnerable. Even Merriam-Webster defines the word vulnerable as:
- easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, or emotionally:
- open to attack, harm, or damage
That sounds pretty awful, so how can vulnerability be the new strong? Because anything less is inauthentic and everyone, yes everyone, can see it. It is the inauthenticity that makes us weak. There is a process I conduct in leadership classes where individuals, who have known each other for about 24 hours, give very specific feedback to each other from what they have observed during the class. What the students learn is that all of those things that they think they’ve been hiding, are 100% transparent. It’s time to tear down those transparent walls that you’ve been hiding behind and get real. When you do your life as a leader, partner, parent and friend will improve immediately.
As a leader at work you will experience a deeper connection with your team members. They already know you aren’t perfect. When you finally admit it they will respect you more. Loyalty and dedication to you, and their job, will increase because they know you care.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” Theodore Roosevelt
You will all have more fun and build a more enjoyable, authentic culture. And the biggest benefit as a leader, if you will really commit to being vulnerable, is to get real feedback that will allow you to grow. Most employees won’t offer real feedback because they fear repercussion. That is unfortunate because it limits the growth potential of the leader, the team member and the organization.
As a partner, parent and friend, you will forge a deeper connection that is built on a solid foundation of trust when both parties show up authentic. Those connections stand the test of time, even when one of you stumbles, because now there can be understanding and forgiveness. We ALL stumble occasionally. Life at home is more satisfying and fun because everyone is able to ask for what they want and need and they are actually being heard. When you are vulnerable you at least create the possibility of having your needs met.
The only way you will ever know if vulnerability works for you is to put it to the test. It takes real courage to tear down the walls you’ve been hiding behind and be vulnerable. The strongest leaders have realized that being real has become their greatest strength. And the first person you need to get real with is yourself.