Brené Brown frames a leader as "anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes and has the courage to develop that potential.
Leadership is not about titles or the corner office. It's about the willingness to step up, put yourself out there, and lean into courage."
In her book Dare to Lead, she adds, "we desperately need more leaders who are committed to courageous, wholehearted leadership and who are self-aware enough to lead from their hearts, rather than unevolved leaders who lead from hurt and fear". I tend to agree. Leading with this kind of leadership requires us to be vulnerable.
Ever have that dream where you are in the front of a classroom full of people and you suddenly realise, you’re naked?
Yeah, me neither.
But oh my gosh, doesn’t it just make you go ice cold? None of us likes to be exposed like that.
I remember on the day of my book launch, feeling extremely vulnerable as I watched each person look at the book I had just handed to them. I felt as if I had just handed them a naked picture of myself. It was a very uncomfortable moment for me. And what was I afraid of? Being rejected.
Most of us spend most of our lives trying to cover up and protect ourselves, so being purposefully vulnerable is not on our priority list. Especially in leadership. And this is where most of the trust
There is something about making ourselves vulnerable that is terrifying, it is because we are putting ourselves out there and we have no guarantee that we will not be rejected, in fact, the chances that we will have just gone up by 100%.
As someone who spent most of her life trying to be invisible, coming out of the shadows has been a tremendous lesson in growth. I have learnt that if you want growth, you can’t choose comfort. But what I have also learned is that people powerfully respond to vulnerability. The first time I got naked, I was speaking to a crowd. I watched as eyes glistened and hearts opened, and many people came to me afterwards to say that my talk had deeply impacted them. Ever listened to a speaker and been inspired by them but think “if only”? The difference, they said was instead of me being “on a pedestal” and “out of reach” they saw themselves in my struggles and it gave them hope that they too could get
through to the other side. That is the day, I left all my armour behind. It has been a terrifying and liberating journey so far.
Brené Brown has done amazing work around vulnerability: In her words: “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it's having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it's our greatest measure of courage.”
As leaders, our goal should be to create connections with our people, we cannot create connections if we are closed off from them. As Brené says “Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection”.
There used to be a saying, “don’t let your people see you sweat”. I think that is a dumb move, all that does is create distrust and let’s be honest, resentment, because “if you ain’t sweatin, you ain’t workin’,
which leads to "and then why are you getting the fat cheque off my sweat”?
During lockdown, the leaders who were honest about how scary it was and that they didn’t have all the answers got the respect and help and buy-in from their people because they had the courage to let them in and people will always respond to that. And that deposit of trust can be built on for ages.
So, as leaders, let’s spend less time covering up and more time getting naked! (of course, in the metaphoric way only, let's not get some lawsuits going...)
When do you feel most vulnerable?