Vulnerability is the state of being easily hurt or attacked. Opening yourself up to being vulnerable goes against all of your biological wiring to protect yourself from harm.
Despite this, some of the most powerful leadership moments I’ve witnessed came as a result of the leader letting down his or her defenses and taking a risk.
One potent example was when a CEO client of mine stood in front of the entire company to share his 360 feedback results—the good, the bad, and the ugly. He was poised and humble as he bared his deepest feelings to his employees, something he’d rarely done before.
The range of emotions in the room were astounding; there was laughter and tears by him and the employees. Afterwards, I heard nothing but praise and comments of admiration from the group.
His vulnerability demonstrated not weakness, but amazing strength.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” ~ Brené Brown
In tribute to a recently deceased friend and leader I’m sharing insights to help you live and lead with no regrets.
This week in Part 2 of the series, we’re taking a look at this common regret: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
When it comes to expressing their true feelings in the workplace, what holds people back? The answer is fear.
Too often, I see leaders keep their thoughts or feelings to themselves in the face of opposition (either real or imagined) or go on the defensive instead.
Maybe you’re afraid of offending others or you’re worried about what people will think of you.
When you avoid opening yourself up and being vulnerable you can limit your ability to fully express empowered leadership.
It’s tempting to believe that keeping your feelings to yourself will protect you. But the truth is that trying too hard to maintain a safe distance from others or from risky issues often backfires.
The result is that you often hurt yourself by introducing feelings of inadequacy and distrust which can negatively impact your leadership efficacy.
Remaining guarded can also lead to frustrated colleagues and employees. It’s difficult to effectively lead others without trust.
So, what does it take to summon the courage to act in the face of fear and harness the power of vulnerability? Bravery.
Bravery is a quality of spirit that enables you to face danger or pain without showing fear. That doesn’t mean that fear is absent, but that you have the grit and tenacity to show up and give it your all anyway.
1. Determine the real risk of any situation.
Usually people do a great job of imagining the worst case scenario very quickly. And, usually, that scenario can be debunked with a succession of quick questions.
- Consider what you’re telling yourself about the situation (your first though)
- If that were true, why would it upset you (or be bad for you)
- If that [problem] were true, what would it say about you or mean for you?
From there, you can assess the likelihood of that risk/situation and come up with a more realistic alternative that is generally much better than the rabbit hole you’ve been traveling down! (It’s not that likely that you’d lose all respect from your team if you shared your fear of rejection on your proposal.)
2. Leverage your humanity!
Recently, I had an exec client who had been sick for over a week and was still attempting to push through and work anyway. His main concern was how to share that he was ill with the team without negatively impacting his reputation (AKA making him look weak and/or unproductive).I joked, “I hate to break it to you, but you’re human, not superhuman (even if you do have a cape).”
The truth in that statement is that people actually appreciate it when leaders show their human weakness—it makes you more approachable and more like them!
3. Find opportunities to show vulnerability.
Showing vulnerability will help others feel more connected to you because they’ll identify with your feelings. (Hey—s/he struggles too—it’s not just me!)When in doubt, authentically expressing your emotions is usually best for everyone. You will build strong, trusting relationships when people know you’re the real deal.
When you model these types of behaviors, it also shows others that it’s okay to have a bad day, take time off, and admit mistakes, which will make your workplace better off in the long run.
Remember, vulnerability is the new strong!
In memory of Brian Fleenor, 1972-2016.