“Inspired leadership requires vulnerability: Do we have the courage to show up, be seen, take risks, ask for help, own our mistakes, learn from failure, lean into joy, and can we support the people around us in doing the same?”—Brene Brown
Most of us have been taught that great leaders need to be perfect and unshakable even in tough times. We have this false notion that being vulnerable means showing our weaknesses, and we try to avoid that at all costs. However, recent studies show that vulnerability makes us more likable people and better leaders.
How can something that we perceive as a weakness ultimately become one of our best superpowers?
When we are vulnerable, we feel exposed, and it is often uncomfortable. However, psychological research revealed that others frequently view vulnerability as courage and authenticity. As humans, we are wired to find these characteristics endearing.
Think of the last time you felt nervous going up on stage for a speech or speaking engagement. Or when you felt anxious before your presentation for a meeting. Traditional wisdom tells us that being anything less than confident will result in a bad presentation, and most of our dread comes from being seen, thinking we will be judged, and being afraid of disappointing others.
But real-life experience shows us otherwise.
Joking about your trembling voice and your nerves can elicit a laugh from the audience that can break the ice. Showing signs of your nervousness instead of hiding them transforms your audience into a warmer, more understanding, and more cooperative crowd.
You’ve probably experienced it yourself too, as someone sitting in the audience’s seat. You find yourself rooting for the nervous presenter who had the courage to step out and show up anyway, despite the nerves.
Vulnerability allows us to forge genuine connections. It demonstrates to others that we are just like everyone else. As a leader, you can motivate those around you by displaying the "messy" unpolished aspects of your success. It makes you feel more authentic, real, trustworthy, and reachable.
It shows the people who are following your lead that you are human just like them and inspires them to believe that they can one day lead like you. As Simon Sinek said, “A leader, first and foremost, is human. Only when we have the strength to show our vulnerability can we truly lead.”
Vulnerability also encourages people to believe in you and what you stand for. We have this notion that successful people must be “geniuses”—they got to where they are because they were born superior in some sense. They often do not see the hard work and toil that paved the way to get you there. And people don’t identify well with perfection for one simple reason: nobody is perfect.
When people see your journey, they know that you walk your talk. The inspirational stuff you tell your team comes from experience, not mere lip service. Your courage to be vulnerable adds credibility to your words and actions.
That openness and transparency in voicing out your past and present struggles motivate people to believe in you and your mission.
And it also benefits your mental health.
Carrying the weight and welfare of your business and all your stakeholders on your own can be a pretty daunting and heavy burden. Vulnerability attracts people who are willing to stand by you and share the load. That means being willing to let go of control, or at least share it with your team.
Letting go of control is scary for all of us, especially for business owners and entrepreneurs. But as Brene Brown says in her book, Dare to Lead, “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing. It's about the courage to show up when you can't predict or control the outcome."
It takes a lot of humility and courage to raise your hand and ask for help, especially when you are the person people look to to take the lead.
But that courage and humility pay off in the form of loyalty, commitment, and alignment from your team.
When we have the courage to be human and show our vulnerable sides, especially to the people we lead, we can lead them better. Trust needs to be earned, and sometimes all it takes is for you to be the first one to give it willingly to your team by showing vulnerability.
Thanks for reading “A Brilliant Tribe.”