vulnerability, has always been a topic with different dynamics and
stemming lots of conversations, because many leaders still struggle
with ‘letting it out’, with their team members. Recently, I was
giving a presentation to about two hundred and fifty business
leaders, in the health care industry, and over half of the
participants agreed that they struggle with openly seeking for help
from team members and worse still, are not comfortable talking to
team members about organisational challenges, apart from discussing
general and specific productivity and performance related issues with
Over 70% of the participants believed that when they sit around the table with team members and say things like, “We have a problem reaching our targets and all our strategies seem to have failed, who has any ideas to help us move forward?” They are seen to be pushing management responsibilities on the entire team or giving room for team members to take undue advantage in carrying out duties or abiding with policies and procedures, as a comeback for helping out during the crisis period.
No doubt, hierarchical structures in organisations have long, held leaders from fully being authentic, in showing up as real leaders, as this may be seen as less professional or breaking boundaries. In reality, the lack of genuine team building activities in organisations, has done more harm than good, as this reduces staff engagement levels to the core, which causes the stillness in motivation and inspiration.
Unfortunately, the lack of understanding of what constitutes staff engagement has made it impossible for leaders to be able to connect with their team members, and get the best from them. Instead, leaders build a wall of seclusion, which translates to the team members, as “they know it all, they have it all”, causing stronger disconnection and unrealistic and grandiose expectations by employees and when these are not met, the cycle of low morale and low performance continues to be deeply entrenched within the organisation.
Where does vulnerability lie, here? Vulnerability lies in the fact that leaders are unable to maintain genuine connections with team members, and genuine connections are things that engage and make team members feel part of the organisation they work for. It is absolutely correct that, engagement can have a significant impact on the performance of the organisation, driving bottom‐line profit and enabling organisational agility, as well as improved efficiency in driving change initiatives.
To be able to lead effectively, leaders must be able to demonstrate empathy, which helps you understand others’ situations, thereby making it easy for you as the leader to tailor team members’ strengths and weaknesses via the best channels for maximum productivity and performance. In doing this, you must be willing to trust team members enough, to assign tasks that will challenge and bring the best out of them, yet empowering them in dignifying ways. To achieve these with little or no stress, you must be willing, as a leader, to give a piece of your self by being vulnerable. Brené Brown, an expert on social connection, conducted thousands of interviews to discover what lies at the root of social connection. The research revealed that vulnerability, was a key factor in building great connections, both in the professional and personal world. Vulnerability here does not mean being weak or submissive. To the contrary, it implies the courage to be yourself. It means understanding the truths in our world. Which is, ability to come to terms with uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure, and when a leader is open to this, impacting others and making change, becomes seamlessly within grip.
Here are few tips to cultivate vulnerability as your strength:
Admit that you do not know everything and don’t have the solution to every problem - Being able to admit and share times of weakness, as a leader, will earn you trust and present you as being authentic. Creating a stance of ‘ know it all’, only shows that you’re claiming to be perfect, which in the real sense, is just an illusion. Showing weakness and not hiding from imperfection lets others know that you are simply human.
Accept responsibility when mistakes occur – You will protect your credibility as a leader, when you are able to accept responsibility, when you make errors, instead of finding someone else to blame it on. Leaders who play the blame game, only have very little time, before they lose credibility and loyalty. Further, taking responsibility, gives you a sense of leadership that allows you to take time to analyse and consult on how to make progress towards accomplishing the goals set.
Practice empathy - People who are skilled at understanding others’ feelings and situations are more likely to be viewed as effective leaders. A study by MRG found that empathy was the single strongest predictor of ethical leadership, which is why leaders who are empathetic, are able to motivate teams to do their best work, because they create an atmosphere that is non judgemental, but empowering.
Don’t wait for the company to crash before you seek help, suggestions or tell your team members the truth about the situation- Teams are the greatest assets any organisation have and to add value to these assets, leaders must build teams that are formidable, effective and trustworthy. This can only be achieved if team members are treated with trust, a sense of value and are well supported to deliver their tasks to the best of their abilities. Leaders who build their teams on very strong precepts, will have no fear or guilt, telling them the truth about an organisation’s standing when crisis arise, because they would all have been working under shared terms.