Can Leaders Truly Be Vulnerable?

vulnerability, has always been a topic with different dynamics and
stemming lots of conversations, because many leaders still struggle
with ‘letting it out’, with their team members. Recently, I was
giving a presentation to about two hundred and fifty business
leaders, in the health care industry, and over half of the
participants agreed that they struggle with openly seeking for help
from team members and worse still, are not comfortable talking to
team members about organisational challenges, apart from discussing
general and specific productivity and performance related issues with

Over 70% of the
participants believed that when they sit around the table with team
members and say things like, “We have a problem reaching our
targets and all our strategies seem to have failed, who has any ideas
to help us move forward?” They are seen to be pushing management
responsibilities on the entire team or giving room for team members
to take undue advantage in carrying out duties or abiding with
policies and procedures, as a comeback for helping out during the
crisis period.

No doubt,
hierarchical structures in organisations have long, held leaders from
fully being authentic, in showing up as real leaders, as this may be
seen as less professional or breaking boundaries. In reality, the
lack of genuine team building activities in organisations, has done
more harm than good, as this reduces staff engagement levels to the
core, which causes the stillness in motivation and inspiration.

Unfortunately, the
lack of understanding of what constitutes staff engagement has made
it impossible for leaders to be able to connect with their team
members, and get the best from them. Instead, leaders build a wall
of seclusion, which translates to the team members, as “they know
it all, they have it all”, causing stronger disconnection and
unrealistic and grandiose expectations by employees and when these
are not met, the cycle of low morale and low performance continues to
be deeply entrenched within the organisation.

Where does
vulnerability lie, here? Vulnerability lies in the fact that leaders
are unable to maintain genuine connections with team members, and
genuine connections are things that engage and make team members feel
part of the organisation they work for. It is absolutely correct
that, engagement can have a significant impact on the performance of
the organisation, driving bottom‐line profit and enabling
organisational agility, as well as improved efficiency in driving
change initiatives.

To be able to lead effectively, leaders must be able to demonstrate empathy, which helps
you understand others’ situations, thereby making it easy for you
as the leader to tailor team members’ strengths and weaknesses via
the best channels for maximum productivity and performance. In doing
this, you must be willing to trust team members enough, to assign
tasks that will challenge and bring the best out of them, yet
empowering them in dignifying ways. To achieve these with little or
no stress, you must be willing, as a leader, to give a piece of your
self by being vulnerable. Brené Brown, an expert on social
connection, conducted thousands of interviews to discover what lies
at the root of social connection. The research revealed that
vulnerability, was a key factor in building great connections, both
in the professional and personal world. Vulnerability here does not
mean being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the
courage to be yourself. It means understanding the truths in our
world. Which is, ability to come to terms with uncertainty, risk, and
emotional exposure, and when a leader is open to this, impacting
others and making change, becomes seamlessly within grip.

Here are few tips to
cultivate vulnerability as your strength:

Admit that you do
not know everything and don’t have the solution to every problem –
Being able to admit and share times of weakness, as a leader, will
earn you trust and present you as being authentic. Creating a stance
of ‘ know it all’, only shows that you’re claiming to be
perfect, which in the real sense, is just an illusion. Showing
weakness and not hiding from imperfection lets others know that you
are simply human.

responsibility when mistakes occur – You will protect your
credibility as a leader, when you are able to accept responsibility,
when you make errors, instead of finding someone else to blame it on.
Leaders who play the blame game, only have very little time, before
they lose credibility and loyalty. Further, taking responsibility,
gives you a sense of leadership that allows you to take time to
analyse and consult on how to make progress towards accomplishing the
goals set.

Practice empathy –
People who are skilled at understanding others’ feelings and
situations are more likely to be viewed as effective leaders. A study
by MRG found that empathy was the single strongest predictor of
ethical leadership, which is why leaders who are empathetic, are able
to motivate teams to do their best work, because they create an
atmosphere that is non judgemental, but empowering.

Don’t wait for the
company to crash before you seek help, suggestions or tell your team
members the truth about the situation- Teams are the greatest assets
any organisation have and to add value to these assets, leaders must
build teams that are formidable, effective and trustworthy. This can
only be achieved if team members are treated with trust, a sense of
value and are well supported to deliver their tasks to the best of
their abilities. Leaders who build their teams on very strong
precepts, will have no fear or guilt, telling them the truth about an
organisation’s standing when crisis arise, because they would all
have been working under shared terms.

To get more from
your team, get resources here. Join Facebook group, to become a Stress Free Business


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