Be a courageous leader who illuminates flaws instead of hiding them.
5 min read
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The ability to be vulnerable is such an important aspect of life that I switched the two words sitting on my nightstand from “Thank You” to “Radical Humility,” as a reminder to be humble and allow myself to be vulnerable. And it’s not simply being vulnerable as a person at home with your family; it is essential to also be vulnerable as a leader in business.
Vulnerability is simply the courage to be yourself, “warts and all,” a core component of effective leadership. Leaders who try to portray themselves as invulnerable or perfect will soon find that their message does not resonate with their team. Not only that, but a façade of invulnerability is a defense which attracts attacks from others. Vulnerability means living in authenticity.
Vulnerability means authenticity.
Authenticity is what helps you to connect emotionally with your team. As you know, the truth vibrates the fastest and the truth is a cornerstone of vulnerability. Those who are not willing to admit this are unable to grow in their humanity and will not be viewed as genuine at heart.
One of my favorite quotes on the role of vulnerability in our lives comes from the poet David Whyte: “Vulnerability is not a weakness, a passing indisposition or something we can arrange to do without, vulnerability is not a choice, vulnerability is the underlying, ever present and abiding undercurrent of our natural state.”
In order to display your vulnerability, you must illuminate your mistakes when you make them. Being vulnerable means that you are honest and accountable, especially when analyzing yourself. You need to know what you are good at, in what areas you need to improve, what you are hiding, your flaws or your experiences where shame lies. You must be accountable to yourself as well as others, which starts by looking within your ego and being truthful with yourself.
You need to accept that you are not perfect, and that making mistakes is a normal part of being a leader and a human. One of most helpful things that comes along with being vulnerable is that it elevates your self-awareness.
I did not understand this importance early on, until a big “a-ha” moment came to me one time. I was immensely frustrated, dealing with someone I had dubbed “a bullshitter.” I was wasting tons of energy thinking about the person’s approach to business, until I realized what was bugging me so bad … I was a bullshitter, myself.
As a result of being honest with myself, I finally exposed one of my vulnerabilities. I was then able to work through a more truthful way of doing business. This led me to much more success, devoid of backend selling, overselling or manipulating to arrive at the deal I wanted.
Create an environment of vulnerability and truth.
To be vulnerable with others, you must learn to illuminate your flaws as well as your mistakes when you make them. This creates an environment of forgiveness and fosters growth for those you are leading. That’s why I created the “Dummy Tax Award” in my office. After I talk about some mistakes of my own, all employees get an opportunity to tell me the biggest mistake they’ve made the past week, how it affected my business and (most importantly) identify the business or life principle where they failed, that led to their mistake. Then, whoever learned the biggest lesson, in my subjective opinion, receives a bonus.
This is how you create an environment that encourages vulnerability. This is how you reinforce forgiveness among your team members, for themselves and others. You bring accountability and the core values of your company together to create a collective belief in the value of being vulnerable and honest. As a leader, you must encourage showing forgiveness for the mistakes of others; and illuminate the mistakes that you’ve made yourself, in order for your messages to resonate with your team.
Live as a vulnerable leader.
To live this way is especially tough in a hypercompetitive industry, and when you’re in a leadership role. But, it is essential if you want to connect emotionally with your team and allow them to pursue their peak potential. Vulnerability means taking a stance on who you are, as well as recognizing who you might not yet be.
Vulnerability empowers you to recognize the flaws in your mindset or decision-making and do the work to change things. Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. We are all human, we all make mistakes and we all should forgive — not just others, but especially ourselves.