Do you ever have the thought as a leader that you need to know everything that is going on? Or perhaps to be able to do everything? There is an unspoken pressure to do this and whilst I understand this view, I have discovered this view creates obstacles to the growth of those you lead. In order to take your team to the next level you will have to bust open a myth that nestles in the mind of many leaders. The myth? Vulnerability is weakness. The secret to taking your team to the next level is learning to be vulnerable as you lead.
“The great leaders are not the strongest, they are the ones who are honest about their weaknesses. The great leaders are not the smartest; they are the ones who admit how much they don’t know. The great leaders can’t do everything; they are the ones who look to others to help them. Great leaders don’t see themselves as great; they see themselves as human.” Simon Sinek
When you get to a point where you are willing to say I need your help on this. Then you have reached a point of vulnerability. Brené Brown helpfully defines vulnerability in her book Dare to Lead: “Vulnerability is the emotion that we experience during times of uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Every single one of you will have experienced such times.
Vulnerability on its own is not what will bring your team to success. However, without it your team will not achieve the potential they could have.
A question: Can you give me a single example of courage you’ve witnessed in another leader or experienced in your own life that did not require experiencing vulnerability?
Leaving a great job to launch out on your own venture I can only describe as being like sitting on the rollercoaster Oblivion at Alton Towers as you are held above this almost vertical drop for what seems like an eternity. Do you feel vulnerable? Definitely. How then can you harness this in a way which will help grow your team?
3 Ways to Create The Right Environment
1. Vulnerability is Not Weakness
It is a common misconception that being vulnerable is a weakness. Yet I am sure as you reflected on the question above you realised that every act of courage is preceded by moments of vulnerability. Being vulnerable lets others see that you are human not superhuman, that you are experiencing similar doubts and emotions. It doesn’t mean you are paralysed but it will help those around you to see how you deal with circumstances and be able to face them.
2. Leaders Go First
Vulnerability is about being authentic, admitting to yourself and others that you need their help. It is to be self-aware enough to realise the myth that the leader needs to know everything and have the right answers to every question at their fingertips. Others around you and on your team will have complementary strengths and skills to you. Leverage this; invite people in so you can solve things together. To see appropriate vulnerability in the team requires you as the leader to model it – as with many things the leader goes first. Often this is simply drawing the veil back on your thinking process not just presenting your conclusions.
3. Psychological Safety
Create an environment in which those with quieter voices can be heard. An environment where people know they can put their ideas on the table and experiment with new practices without fear of ridicule, embarrassment or being shouted over is key for people to be vulnerable. Being vulnerable is like putting your beating heart on the table; it is choosing not to protect yourself. This leads to highly creative and innovative teams but requires the intentionality of the leader to create and maintain psychological safety.
How is your team culture as you think about the topic of vulnerability?
To create such cultures requires the right framework. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash