Leading With Vulnerability: L.O.V.E. at Work
January 21st 2016
As a leader, you carry unique burdens. But you can lighten the load and become better at your job by adding vulnerability to your skill set. Yes. You read that right.
In her outstanding book, Daring Greatly, Dr. Brené Brown writes about how most of us feel the need to armor up. Have you ever found yourself thinking, “Whew, this is going to be a tough meeting. I better steel myself.” Or, “I’m a total imposter, I have no idea what I’m doing, and these people are going to find out. Time to put on my game face.” This is the opposite of vulnerability.
We put on our metaphorical armor, heavy and awkward, in an effort to protect ourselves from pain, embarrassment, and fear. What we’re really doing, though, is making ourselves less mentally and emotionally agile. We encumber ourselves with unnecessary weight and false impenetrability. We are making ourselves less effective, not more.
Here’s my take: vulnerability is being truthful with yourself, remaining open to others’ feelings, and participating in your firm with emotional honesty. You can demonstrate these qualities by sharing what you’re feeling about an issue rather than only what you think about it. Or you can remain silent while someone else unloads on you. Or you can tell a part of your personal story to someone else. All of these actions are the opposite of weakness. On the contrary, they demonstrate strength of character.
Vulnerability builds trust, because your team will understand that you’re a real human being, not just an unfeeling brain that is filling the role of leader. Perhaps most important for the long term, being vulnerable teaches those who will follow you that they, too, can be open, truthful, courageous leaders.
Being vulnerable will help you remember that, while you do have a leadership role, you are made of the same stuff as everyone else. And as a result, you are very much part of your team. You realize you are not alone. There’s where the real strength lies.