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How To Become A Vulnerable Leader Who Resonates With Your People

April 30, 2018

“With each passage of human growth we must shed a protective structure. We are left exposed and vulnerable, but also yeasty and embryonic again, capable of stretching in ways we hadn’t known before.” Gail Sheehy.

I can’t help but be struck by the irony of me writing an article on vulnerability. The “I” of 10 years ago would have known very little about this topic. In fact, I might have thought for me to show vulnerability was a sign of weakness, even though, I very much respected those who demonstrated this quality. I just seemed to have my own set of rules for myself.

But as I am sure you have found in your own life, time and experience shapes us and moulds us into who we were meant to be versus who we planned on being.

I must say that as I continue to recover from a brain injury of almost 6 years now, I have heard whispers within my mind of lessons that I am learning through each stage. Patience, letting go, mindfulness, compassion and gratitude have all been my gifts through the pain. My latest gift comes through my husband’s cancer journey. And this is vulnerability.

How to Become A More Vulnerable Leader:

1. Remember we are all people first and employees, leaders second, regardless of how attached some of us may become to our jobs. When we see people in this context, it allows us to connect with people at a deeper level and see each other as human beings trying to do our best. We all fail. We are all vulnerable. We all want to be loved and accepted, no matter how ‘strong’ someone may appear in the workplace. Human beings want compassion, so by treating each other with compassion, it will help you to deepen your connection.

2. Share your story. Perhaps a colleague may ask about your weekend. We have the opportunity to share a very real account of some of the emotions we felt during our personal time versus just a generic rundown of the events. This could be a feeling of pride for your daughter when she tried her best at a dance recital or how you felt like a bit of a fool when you tried taking up golf for the first time. When we can share our emotions with people, it is putting yourself out there in a more vulnerable way and allows others to connect with you at a deeper level.

3.Use presentations as a chance to share more than business information. I love listening to people tell stories. There is always an opportunity to insert a short story that can tie back to your topic to drive home a point and use as an opportunity for your audience to get to know you better as a person. This will help differentiate you and make your presentation more memorable for the right reasons.

But, it does take guts and vulnerability to change-up a cookie cutter, formal business presentation and insert a personal quality to it.  Presenters may feel like they don’t want to waste their audience’s time talking about themselves or fear others will think their stories are stupid. Again, if it is a quick story that you can relate back, I think you’ll find it is worth the risk to add a personal dimension to even the most quantitative of presentations.

4. Tell someone in the workplace that you care about them and their wellbeing.  Don’t make assumptions they know.

5. Share your failures with others and talk about the lessons learned. I think we tend to put people in senior positions on pedestals, imaging that their work and home lives run seamlessly and that they rarely make mistakes.

To me, the onus is on the senior leadership to tell their people how life really is and own their mistakes and lessons learned from these failures. Sharing our mistakes is a great way to help nurture future talent, particularly young women who may glass ceiling themselves at Director level as they fear they couldn’t perform at that impossible level of perfection. Women tend to be so critical of themselves. Give your employees a real look into how you make your life work for you.

6. Work and live mindfully. Mindfulness helps you to be aware that you are feeling vulnerable in the first place. Otherwise your busyness will dull down your emotional experience of life and you will not have a chance of showing the emotions you don’t even realize you are experiencing.

8. Stop pushing. Sometimes extremely driven, ambitious people have a goal and they keep going at it over and over again, even if after a while they get the feeling they are pushing too hard. Often the harder we push, the further away we are moving from achieving our goals.

If you are like me, I believed that “hard work= results” and before my brain injury and lessons learned, I didn’t know any other way to succeed.  When you feel like the harder you push, the worse things are going. I encourage you to pull back. Take time to reflect. Sometimes pulling back and allowing yourself to feel vulnerable by taking your foot off the gas pedal is the best thing you can do.

Final Thought:

I am a big proponent of listening to our gut feelings and expressing the ideas we hear inside our minds.  I think way too often we sit on these ideas, afraid they wouldn’t be received well by others.  I say “share your thoughts,” “be vulnerable!” Sometimes, you will fail, but I bet more often than not, you will succeed. And being vulnerable at work is the key to letting your authentic leadership style shine!

Visit Potential Unlimited’s Web site to find out more about my Coaching Programs and How to Become a More Vulnerable Leader

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