Recently, two colleagues in the community shared something that they were struggling with in a public forum. One was tied to how challenging her book was to write. The other was in experiencing a situation where she felt bullied and emotionally was down. In both cases, neither was looking for someone to fix their problem; they were just being authentic and vulnerable. My first thought in both situations was…”mad respect”.
This got me thinking about how many times as leaders we try to put on a facade that everything is perfect. That we are just fine. That nothing is bothering us. Why? Does anyone buy this? In fact, I would argue that you create new problems: either regarding a lack of trust of your honesty or you pull it off and people think you have unrealistic expectations of yourself and others.
Very early in my career, I was afraid people would use my vulnerabilities against me. That they would know I wasn’t qualified for a role. That they would think less of me. That they wouldn’t want to work with me. And I’m sure there might have been a person or two that this did occur for but honestly, I can’t think of a situation. Instead what comes to mind are the times that being vulnerable helped me as a leader. For example, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve sent emails to people before noon asking when does the bar open. This actually drew out conversations about impediments and frustrations that others were dealing with silently. Now, if it sent these every day/week or gave up and didn’t keep trying; now there’s a problem.
I remember coaching a leader once. He believed that unless he was viewed as perfect, he wouldn’t be respected. I asked him what happens when he thinks someone on his team is trying to be perfect. He stared at me for a minute and acknowledged that it is so much easier to apply to others than to himself…yet, if you are a leader, it means you are setting an example for others to follow. You can’t expect others to do what you won’t.
How can you be a little more vulnerable as a leader?