Great leaders show their vulnerability
Many business leaders see vulnerability as a weakness. Great leaders see vulnerability as an asset, according to Emma Seppala. Leaders who truly care about the well-being of their people understand and value the importance of showing vulnerability. Why? Vulnerable leaders inspire, are more authentic, and build bonds that lead to increased performance.
Unlike what many leaders think, vulnerability is not synonymous with weakness, lack of assertiveness or power. It merely implies the courage to be yourself and tell your people that it’s OK for them to show vulnerability too. It means eliminating the professional distance a leader may have with their team members and making everyone in the organization comfortable with emotional exposure, empathy and listening.
Think of all the opportunities you and your team members have to show vulnerability and empathy at work… Calling an employee or colleague whose child is not well, reaching out to someone who has just had a loss in their family, asking someone for help, taking responsibility for something that went wrong at work, or sitting by the bedside of a colleague or employee with a terminal illnes
Employees trust and rally behind empathetic, caring leaders. Leaders who do show vulnerability and humanness create a sense of relatability. Vulnerability and authenticity are the essence to establish genuine human connection. And we all know that human connection is often dramatically missing in the workplace and in the society in general.
People thrive in workplaces where they can be “whole”, where they can open up about their feelings, where they can have “adult conversations” while avoiding the drama. This is how highly collaborative, inclusive and high-performing cultures are built.
Jeff Manchester, in the book The Power of Vulnerability he co-authored with Barry Kaplan, says
“You lead by being vulnerable. You can come to the team and say, ‘I don’t have the answer, let’s figure this out together.'”
By showing vulnerability, leaders create new opportunities for their teams. Cohesiveness, belonging, “we-have-your-back” mentality are clues of a positive and thriving culture.
No fear of failing
Perfection doesn’t exist. Vulnerability, the acceptance of failure, is what makes leaders great. The common thinking of perfection leading to high-quality performance is a myth. Sure, it may work for a while, but it’s not sustainable in the long-term. Leaders who push for perfection burn out their people very quickly. Leaders who push for self-improvement, for taking risks and failing along the way – as long as they learn from these failures – eventually win.
Failure has no correlation with age or experience either. The most senior and experienced contributors or leaders should not be afraid of screwing up. In her book “Permission To Screw Up”, Kristen Hadeed shares how her willingness to admit and learn from her mistakes helped her give her people the chance to learn from their own screwups too.
In his “7 Reasons Being Vulnerable Makes Better Leaders” article, Harvey Deutschendorf sums up how vulnerability should be an attribute in leaders. Here are the ones that resonates the most with me:
– decreases tension and stress at work
– increases flow of ideas, creativity, and innovation
– better teamwork and cooperation
– creates a fun workplace
– emotional connections leads to less turnover
Showing vulnerability in the workplace is OK. It simply shows that leaders are human beings, who care about their people and want them to thrive.
- Sr. Director, Client and Community Experience (Executive Team)
- Founder of the Employee Experience Summit (a nationwide city-tour of EX conferences)
- Founder of the Employee Experience Podcast
- Author of the first B2E (business to employee) Branding Manifesto