What comes to mind when you think of leadership? Probably any of the following:
- Having connections
- Commands authority
- Grabs people’s attention, etc.
However, something is missing in the list above. Vulnerability. You heard right! The ability to be vulnerable. Why is that? Doesn’t vulnerable mean “weak” or “sensitive”? Why would a leader want to be associated with being “weak” or “sensitive”? Isn’t that the antithesis of what a leader should be?
The answers may surprise you.
The truth is, people don’t just want to rely on a leader. In fact, they want the leader to be compassionate and understanding towards their constituents. People want to be able to trust a leader on a humane level. In other words, they don’t want a façade – they want authenticity.
With that said, this brief overview will discuss the following, when it comes to having vulnerability in leadership:
- The common assumption of the term “vulnerability”
- Defining “vulnerability” in terms of leadership
- Why vulnerability is essential in leadership, AND
- How leaders can adapt vulnerability
What is Vulnerability?
First and foremost, the term “vulnerability” has been loosely used throughout society. At first glance, people may see vulnerability as a weakness. In fact, when one thinks of vulnerability, what does that normally spell?
- Imperfect, and so on
However, the definition of “vulnerability” has evolved over the years. Now, vulnerability has become part of AND encouraged in today’s world. Therefore, the term refers to the following:
- Accepting of flaws and imperfections
- Having a heart
- Understanding of others, AND
What Is Vulnerability… In Leadership?
So, what does vulnerability mean for leadership? A lot of things.
Going back to the new meanings for the word “vulnerability,” here’s what they mean in terms of leadership:
- Being an honest leader
- Not having the “perfect leader” mentality
- Being a caring leader
- Understanding everyone around you (e.g. employees, customers, etc.), AND
- Being human
As you can see, vulnerability has shaken the stereotypical ideology of the “stone-faced, heartless leader.” Instead, vulnerability is now seen as a crucial leadership quality for today’s business world. Therefore, the true definition for vulnerability is “the ability to face uncertainty and take risks, despite being exposed to various emotions.”
Why Vulnerability In Leadership?
Now that there’s a better understanding of vulnerability, especially with today’s standards, why is it important in leadership?
First, keep in mind that vulnerability doesn’t – and shouldn’t – imply that you become weak and submissive. Instead, vulnerability should be at the heart of social connection.
Rather than try to maintain a professional look and keeping a distance from sensitive manners, vulnerability allows you to be yourself, and to have the courage to do so as you lead a team, a company, etc. That means taking risks and being human.
Let’s dive deeper into this idea.
How Good Leaders Use Vulnerability
With that in mind, all leaders must consider vulnerability in their work and demeanor. While it might be hard to do so at first, it’s still worth pursuing in order to develop as a leader.
Before putting vulnerability into action, it’s important for leaders to take time to identify their vulnerabilities. Afterwards, they need to face said vulnerabilities, and admit to them, whether it’s to their employees, the people that they serve, or anywhere that they have their foot in the door. For example, if a leader finds it hard to answer a question, they should admit that, and not beat around the bush or lie.
There are also other times when leaders can exhibit vulnerability:
- Ask for feedback from employees, consumers, etc.
- Reach out to an employee who’s struggling with any issues (e.g. work, family, etc.).
- Ask for help.
- Hold regular wellness checks with your employees.
- Understand when an employee needs time off for childcare, elder care, etc.
- Take responsibility for mistakes made, etc.
Ultimately, vulnerability is not necessarily a bad thing. The truth is, vulnerability can have a place in leadership when implemented properly and authentically. Nowadays, no one expects a leader to be emotionless or robotic. Instead, people want authenticity and heart from a leader.
As you can see, the word “vulnerable” doesn’t always mean “weak” or “sensitive.” When it comes to leadership, vulnerability is – and should be – something that all leaders should adapt, since it shows people the humanity in them.
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