Why Vulnerability is Critical to Your Leadership

Vulnerability. Not a position everyone is quick to embrace. In fact, most people spend their entire lives avoiding vulnerability, reluctant to be seen too closely, to be judged, to feel exposed. Frankly, being vulnerable is risky and it’s understandable that our first impulse is to run and hide.

But if you’re going to uplevel as a leader, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. You have to be open to not knowing, to not having it all together, and to not necessarily being well-liked. You may even have to expose those areas in which you are unkempt, undone, uncertain.

For most leaders, this is a hard pill to swallow. Of course you don’t want to be “called out” or put on the spot regarding something don’t know or are uncertain about. No one wants to be in that position. But when you let this fear drive you away from admitting that there are things you don’t know, you run the risk of coming across as rigid, controlling, and intractable.    

In addition to being open about not having it all together, you also need to be willing to share what you see as possible. What do you care about? What are your commitments? How do you see yourself creating a better world? Tell the truth about what you really, really want.

Let others see who you are—as a leader, as a creator and an innovator, as a human.

When we let ourselves go a bit deeper and be vulnerable, it helps those around us understand our larger vision. That understanding and humanity is imperative in upleveling your leadership and ultimately growing your organization.  Below I have offered some specific ways you can expand your capacity to be vulnerable.

Weekly Uplevel Practice

Now, I understand that you’re probably not just going to jump up and say, “Yes! Sign me up! I am ready to be vulnerable!” But here are some suggestions for how to get started on the path to being more comfortable with vulnerability:

  1. Look for opportunities to be “in process” with a project or an idea. Create space to build discussion, gather feedback from others, and generate more collaboration.
  2. Identify ways to be more authentic when communicating your vision. Take a risk and share what matters to you most.
  3. Notice when you are holding back from sharing.  Unless it is truly a confidential matter, challenge yourself to share and contribute.
  4. Practice what you might say when you share something vulnerable.  The practice allows you to refine your language and framing.

Once you’ve tried out these out, see how your interactions with others change. See how your environment changes. You will find that you’ve created a space in which people share more deeply and authentically. It may not happen right away, but it will happen over time.

So what is an area in which you could be more vulnerable? Pick one (or two, or three) and try it out this week. Be open, be honest, be vulnerable.

Let us know how it goes, what you learned in the process, and how being more vulnerable affected you and your leadership in the comments!