Leadership and Why Vulnerability Matters

Last week, we wrote about courageous leadership and why it is important. This week’s blog is definitely not a new topic for us and has ironically come up a lot in some recent programs we have delivered so I have been inspired to reinforce the importance of vulnerability and leadership.

Thanks to Brené Brown, bestselling author, research professor and highly regarded public speaker for her work on exploring topics like shame, authenticity, courage, and vulnerability. Her ideas are so inspiring to us because they highlight concepts that we feel are incredibly important to leadership and being a happy, healthy, and grounded human being. 

The idea that vulnerability can be a positive trait for leaders might seem counterintuitive to some people. After all, some of us have been taught and shown that leaders should conduct themselves as beacons of strength and power. The world has changed and so has the concept of leadership. We live and work in a different world, one in which organizations thrive when their leaders are able to truly connect with their employees, partners and clients on a human level.

Common Fears in the Workplace

It's important to look at how fear influences behaviour and results in the workplace. If you type “fear and business,” “fear in the workplace” or any other similar phrase into your search bar, you'll receive thousands of results for articles that explain just how pervasive and negative fear is in the modern workplace. 

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of information available when it comes to teaching leaders how to overcome fear in the workplace, which is why we think Brené Brown's ideas on the power of vulnerability are so important.

Think about your own workplace and you will probably see or hear about some of the following fears on a regular basis. You might even catch yourself succumbing to one or more of them occasionally yourself:

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of not being good enough
  • Fear of not being smart enough
  • Fear of losing your job
  • Fear of success

These fears and others are probably more damaging to your organization than you would anticipate. They can shift your company's culture quickly and negatively. In many cases, they can bring an organization down from the inside out.

Embracing Vulnerability and Overcoming Fears

The fears that individuals hold are often generated (unknowingly or knowingly) at a very young age. That's why being authentic is so critical as a leader, as it takes courage to be authentic, and this is where embracing vulnerability comes in. It's important to be courageous and admit how you truly feel vs. acting in a way which you believe to be “acceptable or expected” in the workplace. It's crucial that you're able to show that you are human too, which makes you relatable to others as they may be feeling the similar emotions as you but are fearful in expressing them.

Some people might think that vulnerability is synonymous with weakness, but showing your true, authentic self is actually a display of great strength. Moreover, vulnerability connects people, and when an organization embraces the power of vulnerability on a large scale, fears dissipate, people stop wearing masks of insecurity and people begin to perform confidently because they know they won't be ridiculed, judged, or belittled for showing their true selves.

Vulnerability is the super food that feeds and creates a psychologically safe space for others to think and perform at their best. When people feel “safe” and vulnerable enough to just be themselves, you will get the most from them. We know this to be true through the work that Google did with Project Aristotle back in 2012. 

Transform Your Workplace with Vulnerability

Is your organization stuck in a cycle of fear where people are afraid to tell you what they really think?

Do you feel unable, as a leader, to say what you really feel in fear that you may not be well regarded or perceived as weak?

Does your workplace run on negativity and fear of authenticity while suffocating the potential for creativity and the acceptance of people for their greatest strengths?

You, as a leader, have the power to change things, but you need to summon the strength to be vulnerable. Even Brené Brown admits that vulnerability can feel uncomfortable at times, but it's also where feelings of belonging, creativity and joy are born. 

Sadly, we live in the most debt-riddled, depressed, addicted, and medicated society in the history of the world. Clearly, many of us are numbing ourselves as a means of eliminating fear from our lives. Unfortunately, you can't selectively numb your emotions. This cycle of fear is only broken through vulnerability and embracing your truth.

When you embrace vulnerability, it might feel unpleasant at first, but if you allow yourself to lean into it and be “vulnerably seen” by others, magical things will start to happen in all aspects of your life.

More Help For Improving Vulnerability in Your Organization

Does your organization need a boost of vulnerability? Is your workplace one in which you (and your people) feel comfortable, confident and authentic? What are your thoughts on the power of vulnerability? Let us know what you think.

Reach out to me today at joanne.trotta@leadersedgeinc.ca or contact me at 1-855-871-3374. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

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