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The Power of Vulnerability: Embracing the Double-Edged Sword


I feel nervous being vulnerable. I think my team will not respect me if I say 'I don't know' or 'I am lost'. I have never done it. The result: I spend countless hours in figuring things out myself and then delegate to the team. I am over-worked and burnt out. More importantly, my team does not come to me with bad news. They sometimes pretend to know instead of saying 'I don't know, I need help'. How can I wear vulnerability with confidence?
~ Director, Financial Services

Vulnerability is emotional exposure that threatens the loss of our own sense of self.

~ Brene Brown, Crouch, Cléro

For many leaders, vulnerability is tough to demonstrate to their team because of how they will be perceived. Many leaders want to have the picture-perfect self-image that's "emulate-worthy". Showing their shadow self may mean exposing themselves self to ridicule or criticism. This is quite challenging for some.

How can one embrace the power of vulnerability ?

  1. Assess context & timing

There are spaces that are ideal spring boards to display vulnerability and aid progress. There are also other spaces, where vulnerability may be perceived as weakness. It's important to use one's discretion as a leader.

Below are some contextual examples of both:

  • Many leaders perceive that Business As Usual (BAU) generally holds relatively less space for vulnerability. Its is true that your team looks up to you to set the vision/direction for their work and career. However you are free to co-create it with them by inviting them into the conversation with humility.

  • Similarly, crisis times, don't have a space for being vulnerable due to the urgency of the context. Directional leadership needs to take precedence. When the semblance of 'certainty' returns, the leader can acknowledge the support of everyone in getting there. They can also share what they did not know in the beginning.

  • When situations are uncertain, unprecedented & ambiguous, it lends space for vulnerability as no one knows how to navigate the space. This is an ideal space where the leader's vulnerable side can come to the forefront to find the answers with others.

  • When the best efforts fail, it gives a great opportunity for the leader to display their vulnerable side. The leader can take the risk of being vulnerable and strive to do better next time.

Understanding the context and the timing is important to harness the power of vulnerability.


2. Courage

Fear if ridicule is one of the main causes of not being vulnerable.

To be vulnerable you need courage. When you are vulnerable you receive courage too.

To be courageous implies a certain level of risk-taking. As a leader, embracing risk, that requires courage & vulnerability will help you be inspiring.


3. Authenticity

Its important to remember to be yourself while being vulnerable.

An "act" will not cut it and people will see through it.

To be authentic requires you to know your triggers, your biases, your insecurities and challenges.

With self awareness, choose wisely when & where you like to be seen as vulnerable till it becomes a habit.

What helps you be vulnerable?

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