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How Can Vulnerability Serve You As a Leader?


“Vulnerability is the best measure of courage” Brené Brown

After attending and organizing hundreds of webinars and interviews, it's interesting to know how vulnerability seldom comes up. However, I was triggered to write about this as I hear it more and more recently. Is that an awakening from the experience of COVID-19?


In a recent training I have produced, one of the senior leaders raised this question of how can vulnerability serve a leader when we hear a lot of misconception that it may be a sign of weakness? Can we be a leader of influence and impact if we show vulnerability?


What is vulnerability?


Upon checking the definition of vulnerability online, I am quite unhappy with what I have read -- the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally. No wonder, people are afraid to be vulnerable, nobody wants to be attacked or harmed... I am glad I have watched this video, The Power of vulnerability by Brené Brown which has changed my perspective around this. Vulnerability in the workplace is the root of authentic leadership and meaningful connection, now that's beautiful, right?


In recent years, we have heard of the importance of emotional intelligence, DEI (diversity, equity & inclusion), empathy and vulnerability in order to create connections and collaboration among teams.


Why is vulnerability important as a leader?


Being ourselves is about living our purpose. We are happier when we are true to ourselves. Some of the benefits and key outcomes of being vulnerable as a leader include trust, connection, enhanced feeling of self-worth, increased creativity and innovation and deeper relationships. All which benefits us both professionally and personally that may result in better quality output, performance and therefore, profitability.


A vulnerable leader does not have to have all the ideas and know everything. It's about having self-awareness, knowing your strengths and weaknesses so that you can ask for help when needed. Being vulnerable as a leader involves openness and being able to see through the eyes of the people you lead. By doing so, you create a psychologically safe environment that opens up conversations which can result in people to be more involved and invested.


How can you be vulnerable at work without spilling everything?


The key is balance, mindfulness and setting boundaries. Part of being vulnerable is curiosity, you don't have to pretend that you know everything and you have to show up as a continuous learner. It is about sharing your emotions and your experiences to move your work, connections and relationship forward.


Being vulnerable as a leader does not mean disclosing everything. This is an example Brene Brown shared --- You can say, “I’m really struggling right now. I’ve got some stuff going on and it’s hard, and I wanted y’all to know. And I want you to know what support looks like for me is that I’ll check in with you if I need something or I may take some time off. Support also looks like being able to bring it up with you when it’s helpful for me but not having to field a lot of questions about it. That’s what I need right now.”


When you embrace an authentic and vulnerable stance, your team sees you are a human being, they may feel closer to you and foster loyalty. Employees want leaders who are willing to discuss challenges and are open to suggestions and using new ideas.


Some of the ways to show vulnerability includes:

  1. Gratefulness

  2. Courage

  3. Curiosity

  4. Connection

  5. Empathy

Remember, that just being you is a gift not only to yourself but also to others. Your purpose is to be you.


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