How vulnerability can make you a better leader.


The unknown can be scary and often debilitating. Most of us have this fear and rightly so. Not knowing what comes next means we can’t prepare and if we can’t prepare, we leave ourselves open to danger. Fearing the unknown is a survival instinct. It is further amplified by our fear of social rejection. The fear of being laughed at or dismissed by our peers is so great that we often avoid speaking up and voicing our opinions. Additionally, we don’t want to appear weak or incompetent, so we put on a mask to hide our insecurities. We then avoid situations or conversations that could reveal them. This is particularly true for the construction industry where many men find it difficult to discuss feelings and emotions. There is a great deal of pride amongst men in this industry and admitting there is a problem is “un-manly”[1].


We all want respect and putting ourselves out there could lead to rejection. So, what do we do?


The answer is simple. The action needed can be difficult.


We need to allow ourselves to be comfortable with being vulnerable. We need to embrace the unknown so that we can rise up and become daring leaders.


Research professor, Brenè Brown has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. She is an expert on the topic. She recently completed a 7-year study on brave leadership. Brown describes leadership as “the willingness to step up, to put yourself out there, and lean into courage”. She explains the greatest barrier to courageous leadership is not so much fear but the way in which we respond to our fear. Without even realising it, we engage in thoughts, emotions and behaviours to protect ourselves when we aren’t willing to be vulnerable. Quite often this moves us away from our values, diminishes trust with our colleagues and prevents us from being our most authentic selves. From a business perspective, this impedes growth and often allows great opportunities to fall by the wayside.


Leaders need to be able to provide and receive honest feedback. They need to take chances and make decisions, decisions that may be unpopular. They need to confide in their team when they need help and defuse conflict when it arises. Most of these tasks are easier when you have a strong and supportive network. Vulnerability is the foundation for which strong relationships are built.


We saw the magic of vulnerability first hand with one of our clients who participated in our General Manager program. For obvious reasons we cannot disclose their name, but I will refer to them as Greg. Greg has worked hard throughout his life and about a year ago was promoted to General Manager. Greg has the skill set to perform in this role. He is flexible, innovative and great at creating solutions. Greg has a great deal of experience and works off intuition when assessing solutions. He then validates his decisions with data. Despite having a wealth of experience and the right skill set, Greg questioned himself. He would question his adequacy and whether he was worthy or good enough. He couldn’t see how he could add value. This affected his relationship with his peers. While amicable, he felt that he was different. This perception caused him to bottle up his emotions and keep his peers at arm’s length. Behaving in this way prevented him from getting the best out of his peers and excelling in his new role.


With the help of our coaches, Greg was able to peel off the armour and allow himself to be vulnerable. He became bold and shared his ideas with his colleagues. He found the power to be himself and realised that he does in fact have a lot to contribute. This new-found realisation allowed him to soar into the leadership role and deliver results. It also improved his relationship with his peers.


Vulnerability is not a one-off event. Like many things, it is similar to a muscle. It will be hard the first few times and many more after that but the more you rumble with vulnerability, the easier it will become and the better your relationships will become. Stronger leader relationships means better results for your team.


We can help you strengthen your vulnerability muscle and equip you with the skills to become an exceptional leader. Apply now for our General Manager Program commencing in March 2019. Spaces are limited and filling up fast so be sure to secure your spot today.

[1] http://matesinconstruction.org.au/about/why-mic-exists/

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