I sat in the audience listening to the keynote speaker. He was a former leader of a multi-billion dollar company – an author, speaker, and leadership consultant. I should have been engaged in learning from this expert. Instead, I was focused on his somewhat tedious delivery. He had a lot of great things to say, but he hadn’t grabbed my interest long enough to make me listen. Then he said something that changed everything.
In the middle of some point on leadership, he just stopped, stared at the audience, and said, “I have a confession to make. I’ve only been doing this four months. I just left my extremely high-paying job to do this – deliver keynote talks. I’m scared to death.”
It was honest. It was vulnerable. And, it grabbed my interest. I listened closely to all he said for the next 45 minutes.
Authentic vulnerability is extremely desirable and extremely difficult. It’s risky and frightening. Personally, it has been the most difficult thing I’ve had to learn along my leadership journey. But, leaders who understand vulnerability, lead teams who are willing to risk anything for them.
Leadership vulnerability creates a safe place for people to risk, create, and dream.
When leaders are vulnerable, their followers are secure in the knowledge that perfection is not the expectation; willingness to try is the expectation. Vulnerability makes you human, but it must be exercised carefully.
It isn’t… ”I have no idea what I’m doing on this project.” It is… ”Although I have expertise in curriculum development, I need to lean on your input for assessment.”
It isn’t… ”Your job and mine are on the line unless we make our numbers.” It is… ”We had a tough first quarter, and we need to pull together to achieve better results. Fortunately, we have a great team and I know we can do this. Where should we start?”
Vulnerable leaders inspire dedicated followers. Draw in a big breath and be honest with your team. Their strength will develop within your weakness.