How vulnerable are you as a leader? 6 key questions to ask yourself.

How vulnerable are you as a leader? 6 key questions to ask yourself.

Seth Godin business and marketing thought leader said this:

“Everyone you interact with is changed forever. The only questions are, how will they be different, and how different will they be.”

The way you choose to show up each and every day, regardless of the position you hold, impacts not only your life but also the lives of everyone you come into contact with.

This doesn’t mean that in order to be a good leader you have to have all the answers. Or even that you should pretend to. In fact, research suggests that great leaders do the opposite.

For example, Dr. Brené Brown, one of the world’s leading researchers on authenticity, has found that one of the critical components for great leadership is the willingness to be vulnerable with others.  Of course, vulnerability is far easier to read about, than it is to do. After all vulnerability is the first thing we look for in others and generally the last thing we’re willing to show. In others, it’s courage and daring, but in us it often feels like shame and weakness.

Showing up and genuinely being seen for all our worthiness can be tough. Being real takes courage.  It also makes us more relatable and trustworthy. Being vulnerable means rather than needing to always be the expert, that we can ask questions when we don’t know something; instead of trying to do it all, that we can ask for help when we’re struggling; and when things go wrong, that we’re willing to ask for feedback, take accountability and learn from it.

When you allow yourself to be seen for who you really are studies have found it’s easier to form close relationships at work, people may be more willing to share advice, and your team may begin to feel less hierarchical. Brown has also found that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.

As leaders, vulnerability requires us to own how we’re feeling, to be attuned to the emotional landscape of others, and to be willing to sit in the discomfort this can bring. It means accepting that uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure – the research definition of vulnerability - don’t need to be outrun or outsmarted. It means consistently choosing what is courageous over what’s comfortable.

Perhaps this is why Godin suggests that if we’re not uncomfortable in our work as a leader, it’s almost certain we’re not reaching our full potential.  Brown suggests that vulnerability starts with the willingness to be honest about what gets in the way of being our most authentic selves at work. What’s the fear that holds us back? Where and why do we want to be braver?

Then she recommends figuring out what’s our armour. Are we hiding our true selves behind perfectionism? Intellectualising? Cynicism? Numbing? Control? While this armour feels like it’s keeping us safe, it’s actually shielding us from the chance to feel truly worthy of connection.

Brown writes that it’s not fear that gets in the way of daring leadership, it’s our armour.

The truth is that in work and in life there are no guarantees about the outcomes that we’ll achieve. Instead of striving for perfectionism or worrying about what others might think, great leaders allow themselves to be truly seen. It is their courage to be imperfect that makes them both authentic and effective.

And yes, it’s uncomfortable, but required. Brown notes that in fifteen years she’s not met one transformational leader who did not do discomfort. Leadership she suggests is about choosing to do what is courageous over what is comfortable.

6 Self Coaching Questions

As you build your vulnerability muscles, reflect on these questions below. Work your way through them as a journaling exercise, and see how you are tracking when it comes to being vulnerable as a leader and in your working life.

  1. On a scale of one (not at all) to ten (absolutely) how comfortable are you with truly being vulnerable and seen for who you are at work? Try to be as honest as you can with yourself.
  2. How does this willingness to be vulnerable impact your work and your relationships? How does it impact your ability to lead others?
  3. What gets in the way of being your most authentic self at work? What’s the fear that holds you back?
  4. What’s your preferred armour when you want to hide your true self at work? Perfectionism? Intellectualising? Cynicism? Numbing? Control? What might this be costing you in terms of opportunities for genuine connection or learning?
  5. Where and why do you want to be braver?
  6. If you truly made peace with the idea that imperfection simply means you’re learning like every other human being on the planet, could you accept that you are perfectly good enough? If this feels like a big ask, what could you do to experiment with these ideas and see what unfolded?

If you would like to explore how you can embrace these concepts, become a more authentic leader and unlock your potential, you will want to join us for the Women Rising program, supported by Microsoft. All details can be found here.

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