3 Powerful statements of Vulnerability
During my professional career, I observed several styles of leadership in different contexts. Not only in my professional life, but for instance also in my spare time in a political context. Leadership, and more specifically the type of leadership, is crucial for the success of teams and groups of people. One of the most important traits of a good leader is vulnerability. It seems like something weak, but the contrary is true. There are 3 powerful statements I don’t hear a lot of today’s leaders saying. Here we go:
The power of ‘I do not know’
Admitting you don’t know something takes courage. There are a couple of underlying feelings that you can associate with this statement. One of them is ‘fear’. Fear of rejection. Fear of looking weak, because you can’t help your team or your people immediately. Another one is ‘insecurity’. You open up yourself to your team. This way you are actually showing them you are insecure about something that is going on. That takes courage and is not always easy to do.
What this statement actually is showing, is that you are very human. That you, as a leader, can’t also know everything, like any other person of the team. It also shows that it is ok to feel those things like ‘fear’ or ‘insecurity’. There is nothing wrong with that. People in your team will feel secure to also open up and tell them about their insecurities. Psychological safety is so important when people work together. This statement is a first step in reaching that.
The power of ‘I am sorry’
The image of the all powerful and almighty leader should be something of the past. It is not natural. Everyone can and will miss. So leaders should be the first to apologize when they did something wrong. Of course you should not apologize for every decision that didn’t go your way. As a leader you sometimes have to take decisions that do not play out that well. That’s part of the job.
A good apology can have a big impact on your team. Here is why. It shows again you are human. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Somebody claiming that he or she doesn’t make mistakes is a plain liar. By admitting you were wrong, you show you are humble. You are placing the team in front of your own feelings and ego. Humility is an important part of that psychological safety I talked about earlier. You are also telling the team you can take responsibility when needed. That you want to create an environment for your team members to do the same.
The power of ‘I need help’
People often think leaders have all the pieces of the puzzle. That leaders bear the skills to go forward in their career. People in a leadership position sometimes also might think that of themselves. You asking for help, tells, shows again that you are comfortable enough to open up to your team. That you value their opinions and expertise. It will empower your team members to do the same with their colleagues. Again, it is a very important contributor to the psychological safety of your team. It shows your people that it is ok to be vulnerable.
Asking for help, and being willing to receive it, indicates that you also are on a journey full of challenges. Big or small. Admitting you get stuck along the way shows that it is normal to encounter difficulties. It should not be about the fact that you do encounter challenges, it should be about how you cope with it. Asking for help is a perfect, open and above all, authentic way of doing that.
Vulnerability sounds like a very ugly and weak word when you place it in a leadership context. The contrary is true. More of today’s leaders should be vulnerable. It creates psychological safety in your team or your company. Above all, it creates stronger bonds between you and the people you are working with. I showed three statements that can help you with it. Like all things, you should balance these out. Start with being aware that good leadership these days does not mean sitting in an ivory tower. Trying to be inhumanly strong.