What does that word bring up for you?
Open. Victim. Brave. Weak. Insecure. Truth-telling.
We tend to associate vulnerability with beliefs, people, and places that we have experienced in our past. In the English language, Vulnerability can reference various states of being, depending on the assumed or referenced context;
- the state of being vulnerable or exposed
- easily hurt or harmed physically, mentally, financially or emotionally
Most of the Vulnerability definitions you can find online are pretty much referring to an old-school, “bad news” come-from.
If you are military for example, you are trained not to be vulnerable, because vulnerability leaves you open to attack. This is similar to the old Corporate leadership structure. Act tough. Be “strong”. Represent a fortress-like presence so that everyone will respect you, be intimidated by you, and assume you do not have any weak spots they can prey upon.
This doesn’t work anymore.
There are certainly moments or situations to “shore up” ourselves, and not be opened up wide. Not every situation or person is safe. However, all of us are vincible, whether we act strong all the time or not. And we all know this- not only about ourselves, but about mankind in general. (cat’s out of the bag!) It used to be fashionable to act tough all the time. But these days, the new coolness, the must-have tool in any leaders tool-belt, the new Black for Leaders is: Healthy Vulnerability, by choice.
Healthy Vulnerability…. What?
“Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity,” Brene Brown says. “There can be zero innovation without vulnerability.” Brene has a couple of very powerful and humorous TED TALKS on Vulnerability. Brené Brown Ph.D. LMSW is an American scholar, author, and public speaker, who is currently a research professor at the University of Houston
Entrepreneurs, Leaders, Managers, CEO’s, Bloggers, thought leaders…we are all vulnerable. Yup. There you have it. Don’t fight it. You’re expending pointless energy if you resist- something leaders don’t like to do! The minute we choose into putting ourselves, our beliefs, our ideas out there, we are vulnerable. The more you do it, the more vulnerable you are. To be a WORLD CHANGER, vulnerability is a huge key to success.
Hmmm. This is pretty much entrepreneurship.
I know- I’ve been in it since 1995. Vulnerability is the natural culture of what we do. To pretend you are not vulnerable, is to lack authenticity. It’s tough to respect, much less follow that leader. He or she is perpetuating an atmosphere of denial and anxiety. It’s real, it’s healthy, and it is more courageous for every leader to be OK with healthy vulnerability. We ask our teams to do it. So- how can we inspire our teams to be honest, and take searching self-inventories of what IS working, and what is NOT working, if we do not lead them by example? It is what I do, not just what I say. And if what I say and do are not in alignment, (that includes alignment with the companies results) it’s quite obvious.
So, just be pathetic all the time? To everyone?
Again, vulnerability is powerful when it’s accessed at the proper time, place and crowd.
I am not saying go drinking with your peeps, and totally breakdown, with no resolve or value as a net result. (really- don’t do this)
I am also not implying you should tell all your deepest secrets to your whole team or company.
I am not saying cry all the time. That would be exhausting. 🙂
Balance and being intuitively appropriate are also leadership keys.
You don’t throw out those other skills that you have worked so hard to cultivate. You integrate them all, intuitively.
Sometimes both the bravado of releasing a vision, and the passion behind it, followed by humble tones of the obstacles that you face, and even a tear can be a winning combination. *I am not saying put that kind of speech together. If it’s too thought out, if it has a hook or contrived agenda- then it’s not inspiring. That’s not vulnerable, that’s manipulative theatrics. Big difference, and they can feel it.
When I am speaking, I am open to all facets of my personality, strengths, and tools. I know where I am going, but I feel free to authentically use the words that come up for me in that moment, not scripted out. I also access both positivity and passion, vision casting and encouragement, with vulnerability in telling real stories, and addressing REAL challenges, so that I meet people where they are. I have had bliss and failure, and so have they. We are no different at our core. We all want to have purpose. We all want successful relationships. We all have dreams to fulfill. So resonating with your team, audience, or company, versus towering over them really works. It works because it’s connection. People dig true connection. They trust it. And trust is hard to gain these days, but so magical when you do.
An Island vs. a Village
We were not born alone, on an island. We don’t get anywhere without others, bad or good.
We accomplish things in communities of people. Family, Friends, Work, Church, Charities, Clubs…..it doesn’t really matter what we are creating; we do it better together.
When a leader says: What are your ideas on this issue? Let’s brainstorm on this challenge or event…. Let’s bring all our experience, education and collective wisdom together in creating a new paradigm… THAT is inspiring. That is motivating. It’s engaging! People pay attention, and feel worthy when THEY are engaged.
That means you don’t have all the answers. And- you don’t. I don’t. That means you are taking time to listen. That means you care what others are thinking. That makes a great leader. There are times when time is short, and we just get to GO, with little collaboration. I get that. If that is most of the time, you may be trying to accomplish too much, too soon, with too little perspective and feedback. Narrow scopes offer narrow results. But there can be more time, blocked out intentionally, to collaborate and grow your company, your vision, your production, your influence and reach…by enrolling others.
To enroll others, we deserve to be vulnerable, as well as all the other traits that make a phenomenal leader. Perhaps in my next blog I will tell the story of my own personal “ONE DAY” when I totally got it, that vulnerability is paramount for a great leader. It’s mandatory for me.
Not always easy. But often necessary. And worth it.
CILC | CMC | CEBC
CEO Women Ignite Idaho Conference and Trade Show
Master Certified Business Coach
World Changer Leadership & Life Mastery Coach