Vulnerability in Leadership

Beyond the rhetoric, creating an engaging culture requires a real belief that people make a difference.  It is a true leader who mindful of this, seeks and accepts feedback when they behave in ways that constrict the life breath of their organisation. When there is no freedom of speech, conversation burrows deeper into irrelevant detail, relationships petrify and cultures freeze over in fear.

Giving and receiving feedback requires risk on both parties. In my work as a coach, the messenger is in just as vulnerable a position as the client. Often, beneath my composed, professional exterior, my heart has been pounding when delivering some insight that I know could well backfire. Only when there is a willingness on the part of my client to see the world through another’s eyes, will the message be heard, understood and acted upon.

Vulnerability is not a weakness. It is an act of courage and means risking being hurt emotionally and even financially. Our ego self does not take kindly to emotional or financial exposure. Pride can create monsters. How many times have we seen leaders making disastrous decisions because they are lost in an inflated image of themselves. Incredulous, we wonder why on earth no one seemed to be able to hold up the mirror of reality before Armageddon? History is littered with egotistical leaders reeking havoc.

However, it is too easy to hide behind the shield of other’s failings. Scapegoats are a dangerous defence mechanism. So let’s bring it home. How many times have you held up your hand and admitted you got it wrong? When you did, what was it about the culture around you that made it safe enough for you to do that? On the other hand, think of the times that you didn’t tackle an issue because failure wasn’t an option?

In the spirit of daring to be vulnerable, ask someone you trust :

  • What is not working and how is my behaviour contributing to the problem?

and because balance is critical:

  • What is working and how is my behaviour contributing to that success?

Without trust there is no vulnerability. Without vulnerability, there is no creativity, no growth and no engagement.

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