For some reason, we are conditioned to think that everyone is always watching us and expecting us to perform a perfect version of ourselves. And it may be partly true.
But holding this standard is impossible and can make you miserable. Instead, embracing your shortcomings, learning from them, and being upfront can unlock new possibilities as a leader.
Let’s explore how vulnerability can strengthen your leadership skills and foster a thriving work environment for you and your team.
What is vulnerable leadership?
Vulnerability is essentially opening yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. It can be perceived as weakness, which goes against your human nature and makes vulnerability so scary.
While there’s little to no chance of being physically in danger by being vulnerable at work, it’s still hard to open up and display your defects for the world to judge.
As leaders — and outside of our leadership positions —, we can mostly agree that being perceived as the strongest and most capable can help establish authority and power.
The thing is that many times, we overcorrect from being strong and end up portraying unrealistic and unattainable versions of ourselves.
Instead, what you should aim for is vulnerable leadership. Simply put, vulnerable leadership is approaching your leadership from a place of openness and self-awareness. Yes, you’re capable, intelligent, and successful. But no, that doesn’t mean you’re infallible or have all the answers at all times.
Vulnerable leadership fosters trust and collaboration
Putting up a front of perfection doesn’t make you worthy of admiration — it makes you inauthentic.
One of the risks of projecting an image of perfection is that it sets an impossible standard for others to live by. Constantly trying to live up to this expectation is exhausting and frustrating. In practice, this can manifest as employees who are afraid to own up to their mistakes. Or worse, afraid of taking action in the first place.
When you demonstrate that you’re capable and skilled and still make mistakes, employees perceive you as transparent and feel like they can trust you. And in turn, your team feels like they can share their own failures and propose solutions rather than face blames or be punished.
Furthermore, the ability to relate to you as a leader is crucial for employees to feel empathy and connection. You’re only human, and so are they. Displaying this by embracing your flaws as learning opportunities fosters a sense of true partnership.
By practicing vulnerable leadership, you can even balance your workload. You won’t feel forced to do it all on your own. Instead, your team is there to support you and pick up the tasks you may not be the best person for. The same is true for employees who can confidently ask for help or share honest feedback knowing there won’t be negative repercussions for it.
Vulnerable leadership makes innovation possible
Companies that are open to fresh perspectives are more profitable and tend to perform better than those that stick to single viewpoints. So much so that companies with diverse leadership teams can earn up to 35% more than their national industry median.
Your staff is full of bright individuals with endless potential to thrive if given the chance. As a leader, embracing the fact that you don’t have all the answers gives others the opportunity to propose new, better ways of solving existing problems.
How to embrace vulnerability as a leader
There’s a lot you can do as a leader to embrace vulnerability and create a safe space for your team.
The first step is opening the lines of communication. Start by speaking openly, both about the positive and the negative. In practice, this may look like disclosing your disappointment in the face of unexpected failure — or sharing your excitement about a new project. Speaking candidly shows your staff that they can do the same.
On a similar note, be receptive to feedback and criticism. Feedback is essential for improvement, but more often than not, managers and others in leadership positions leave it aside until the time comes for yearly reviews. And again, practice giving feedback, but also be willing to receive it from those who work with you.
Next, make room for mistakes. When you’re trying new things, mistakes are bound to happen. Embrace them and learn to address failures without dwelling on them or placing blames. Each mistake is a learning opportunity if you let it.
Are you ready to break the cycles that are holding you back? Book a discovery call below to explore how we can unlock your true leadership potential.