The Power of Vulnerability

Vulnerability and authenticity are two words getting a lot of attention in leadership circles. While these words have often been associated with weakness, today they are key components to leadership success.

If you’re in a leadership position, the last thing you want is to be seen as weak by your employees. But you also need to be careful of being too removed from your front line as well as being seen as robotic. Both have their drawbacks.

Employees these days want to work for value-driven companies and the direction of values comes from the top down. For loyalty to build between leaders and their direct reports, there has to be a human connection. Often that connection and even admiration develop when vulnerability and authenticity are shown.

Here are five ways leaders can show more vulnerability and authenticity in the workplace.

1. Be Open About Not Having All the Answers

It’s critical for leaders to be able to let down their guard and be open about not having all the answers to everything. This creates trust, as employees know their leaders won’t just tell them what they want to hear.

2.  Show Some Fear

The phrase “fearless leader” may be misunderstood and misleading. Fearless implies that there is no fear, when often what we mean to communicate is the courage and bravery to press forward in spite of fear. Often it’s that pressing on that most people find impressive and awe-inspiring. This isn’t to say that leaders should explicitly express fear, but rather that they shouldn’t feel compelled to act as if it doesn’t exist.

3.  Get Personal

Being vulnerable is how most deep connections between people are forged. If leaders seek to develop meaningful relationships with staff, then getting to know them on some personal level is necessary. Of course, it’s important to keep certain boundaries. But employees like to know who they’re working for. So closing yourself off or being too private can send the wrong impression to your employees. It also shows a lack of emotional intelligence and that can be a huge turnoff.

4.  Ask for Help

Most leaders have a hard time asking for help because they fear how it will be perceived. This is hardly the best road to any effective solution regardless of how big or small the issue may be. Being open about needing assistance shows others you’re human and need help with certain things just like everyone else. You may be used to people coming to you for help most of the time. But people feel good when they’re in a position to help others. So, if you need it, don’t rob someone in your organization of that opportunity!

5.  Admit When You’ve Made a Mistake

It’s hard for most people to admit that they made a mistake. But for leaders, it can be even harder as saving face with the rest of the organization can cause inner conflict. Leaders aren’t great because they don’t make mistakes. Successful leaders are those who have achieved great things as a result of being willing to make mistakes and then learn from them. The more you can embrace this philosophy and transmit it to your employees, the more admiration and loyalty you’ll gain.

Whether it be personal or professional, no one is immune to struggles, and leaders are no different. In fact, most people want to see that their leaders are people just like everybody else. Why? Because it keeps the dream alive. The dream that you don’t have to be superhuman to achieve workplace success. No one is perfect and so we shouldn’t expect our leaders to be. Likewise, they’ll be doing more harm than good to themselves and to their organizations if they pretend to be! The more connected leaders can be with those that work for them, the more trust and confidence they inspire. I’d rather work for a real person, one who can share lessons learned from setbacks. I want someone to lead from a place of confidence supported by his/her authenticity and vulnerability in leadership. Wouldn’t you? Just imagine what could be accomplished if we all operated that way.

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