Sooner or later, all leaders come face-to-face with a state of uncertainty, a sense of high risk, or emotional exposure. You know what it feels like – it’s those vulnerability moments, somewhat like tight rope walking, when you think, “How do I best handle this situation?” Or, “Good grief, why me?” It’s that space where you wonder if you have the strength and know-how to do what’s called for at that time.
We know from current neuroleadership findings and from the work of researches like Brene’ Brown (Daring Greatly, 2012) that it serves us no benefit to ignore our feelings. Instead, let’s identify them and decide how best to deal with them in order to get the greatest results.
Here are three good reasons why it’s important to let your vulnerability show.
- Vulnerability requires honesty and courage. To learn a new skill, especially one that takes you out of your comfort zone, calls for you to step up and through a place of uncertainty. You have to be willing to let yourself be seen as not knowing and that can make you feel uncomfortable – vulnerable. However, on the other side of vulnerability, when you face it head on and dare to deal with it, is a feeling of relief, satisfaction and accomplishment. You’ve got to believe you can do it, even if you are not yet there.
Take Kelly (pseudo name), for example. Kelly was promoted to a new role with much greater responsibility. In the privacy of our coaching conversations, she said out loud – for us both to hear – that she felt scared and unsure that she could do all that was expected of her. Then, when she remembered past experiences of similar feelings and the ways she overcame those feelings, she increased her courage to move forward and to reach for things she’d not yet experienced in her career. Kelly is accomplishing great things at work, even as she continues to face up and deal with new vulnerability experiences.
- Owning your vulnerability can transform the way you lead. Dare to show up and let yourself be seen. That means taking off the protective armor that keeps the real you from showing up. Protecting yourself from being vulnerable is actually a measure of fear and disconnection. If you spend your life waiting until you’re perfect or totally protected before you walk into a new situation, you may very well miss opportunities and forgo relationships that are unrecoverable.
During our seminars, we ask people to challenge the limits of their potential as they learn new skills and ways of leading and to be ok not knowing as they move toward a place of knowing. That calls for being vulnerable. Some people gladly receive the challenge and others hold back, or become timid as they think about or experience the discomfort of looking like they don’t know. Those that step into the challenge experience greater results than those who hold back.
- Vulnerability cultivates trust. Other people are watching you. In fact, many begin to take on your behaviors. They don’t have to know all your deep feelings, but when they know that you’re a leader who’s vulnerable, who opens up with your coach or other trusted colleagues, who tries things out and if they fail, owns up to the failures, then the climate of trust increases.
At CFR Global, we pledge to support you in becoming more competent, confident and courageous school leaders. That only happens when you let your vulnerability show.
Vicky Dearing, PCC, M. Ed.
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