A google search for a basic definition of vulnerability doesn’t make it look attractive at all! So unattractive that I almost rethought my decision to write this post.
A look at the synonyms made it worse. I decided not to click ‘see more results’!
The thing is, most of us do think of vulnerability as a negative. Viewing it as weakness, disqualifying us in some way, and putting us at a disadvantage.
No doubt, those are definitely aspects associated with it. Particularly for those who have been consistently mistreated, those facing oppression, those who have been marginalised and more. However, I think there are also other aspects to it.
Last year I took some time to muse on and learn about the power of vulnerability. Specifically -but not exclusively- in relation to leadership.
When one is in a position of leadership, whether formally or informally, those we have the privilege of serving and journeying with can sometimes see us as forever strong. This not necessarily because you intentionally give that impression, but by virtue of or perception of the role.
It can be assumed that you have not had the same struggles, do not fight the same fears, would never have got ‘that‘ wrong/done ‘that‘ thing etc. Again, not necessarily because you give that impression. Although granted, there is definitely the risk of believing ones own hype/letting the role go to ones’ head.
It can be very affirming for a team member or someone you are mentoring to hear about your struggle with the need for validation; your fear of failure that can cause you to say “no” to things; that time when you should probably have stuck with a “yes” instead of reversing your decision; those tough times when tempted by options you would not normally have considered and so on.
Affirming, not because they are glad you have had such challenges, but because it highlights that it is not just them; because you can identify (at least in part) with where they are at; because hearing how you made it through encourages them about how they can hopefully do likewise.
This is something I experienced firsthand last year, as at different times, with certain individuals I exposed a vulnerability or two, or three…
Your ability, to share some of your vulnerability, can increase the capability of others.
Please note, I said “some.” As I am not suggesting you bare the entirety of your soul to those you lead*. There is wisdom, and merit, in those you have leadership responsibility for having an appropriate regard for you knowing/having experience of a little bit more or being on the journey a little bit longer, meaning you might be able to help them figure some stuff out. – Don’t you just luv my leadership lingo?
Vulnerability is a part of life. Our authenticity and transparency with regards to it makes clear that we are all works-in-progress, we all have a story with some less than perfect chapters, and we are all engaged in this corporate journey that is this thing called life.
As opposed to it being a negative, or something that disqualifies us, I’d suggest that a healthy awareness of, and willingness to share our vulnerability actually qualifies and gives us credibility. As leaders, teachers, parents, colleagues, friends… Basically, as people.
So let’s not be afraid to use it’s power.
*If there is a lot of stuff to bare, the appropriate place for us to do that is with our own peers/other leaders or a mentor/coach.
- Song ‘Limp‘ by Jonathan McReynolds