Vulnerability Is Strength: 4 Thoughts For Leaders

Most executive and business leaders are focused on their need to be strong.  The reinforcement for this is everywhere:  tough marketplaces, fast-paced innovation, tight credit and cash flow, and aggressive performance goals.  You cannot escape it.

When recently discussing the subject of vulnerability with a troubled executive he said, “I can’t let people know what’s going on – they’d take advantage of me!”  That could be true, but being vulnerable is not about knowing your darkest secrets.

Some thoughts:

  • Vulnerability is about increased self-awareness – self-awareness is a key to emotional intelligence and thoughtful action.  In the example above, vulnerability could be translated into action to steady the ship rather than a listing of sordid events.
  • Vulnerability is about honesty – it takes some courage to be honest with others and be vulnerable to feedback when others are honest with you. For example, willingness of management to listen honestly to the feedback of others can be essential to a major cultural transition in a company.
  • Vulnerability allows you to see more clearly – sometimes we put considerable energy into defending ourselves and that effort can obscure the most effective and profitable action in front of us.
  • Vulnerability makes us more approachable – if you want to hear the truth then people have to believe you can be approached with the truth.  It doesn’t mean you always agree, but the discussion is critical.

Being vulnerable is often mistaken for a lack of toughness.  Quite the contrary.  Tough, disciplined people understand that their vulnerability is strong glue for teamwork in the most challenging of times.