“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and a struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.” Brené Brown
We live in a vulnerable world, and one of the ways we deal with our own vulnerability is to numb it — grief, shame, doubt, anxiety, fear, sadness, disappointment, loneliness, the list goes on. We don’t want to feel these, so we numb them. The thing is we can’t numb these hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. We cannot selectively numb because in doing so, we also numb joy, gratitude, happiness, and then we’re unhappy because we feel vulnerable.
Whether or not your truth is easy to share, and whether or not you know what speaking your truth will bring about as an outcome, being vulnerable requires courage to be honest about who you are and where you are — the good, the bad, and the emotionally challenging. In sharing what is real for you, you allow people to process your truth, and to respond by showing who they are: their truth.
Kaye’s Story: Vulnerability is a Strength and an Important Attribute of Effective Leaders: A Case Study:
Kay learnt from an early age that vulnerability is a strength. On graduating, straight out of university she joined her family’s long-established department store business, with responsibility for overseeing ladies’ fashion for the company. She was asked to manage a team of buyers, each of whom had been in the industry for several years. While she was fresh out of college, with a degree in business studies, she had absolutely zero buying or management experience. Granddaughter of the founder, she had just walked into the job, and at twenty-three she was very aware that she was far younger and much less experienced than the people she had responsibility for managing.
Kaye wanted to be respectful of this, and so she decided to be honest and transparent about what she didn’t know. In her first meeting with her new team, she acknowledged their experience, and her lack of it. She made it clear that she had so much to learn, and that she would appreciate their help in sharing their knowledge and expertise. She had taken time to learn about each of their backgrounds, and acknowledged each person individually, and the role they had played in successfully building the ladies’ fashion department into a viable part of the business, yielding good profits year on year.
From the very outset Kaye’s intention was to build rapport with each person individually and as a group, and from this gain mutual respect and trust.
She did by:
- Asking questions and listening before committing to embarking on new initiatives or continuing with old initiatives;
- She walked in their shoes, which she did by working alongside them, in order to learn the ins and outs of the fashion industry. She was like a sponge soaking up the knowledge and skills that she was gaining at the hands of experts in their fields;
- When she had to make tough decisions, she took full responsibility for the consequences and learnt from her mistakes. While sharing the credit with others for the successes they achieved together.
The outcome was that Kaye and her team developed a strong rapport built upon a foundation of mutual respect and trust. This led to establishing a complementary working dynamic that allowed the team to grow the department and the business, resulting in them exceeding their goals.
The experience taught Kaye the value of showing vulnerability, and also that it is possible to be an effective leader, even when she was beginning from a place where she lacked the same depth of industry expertise held by her team. She had been nervous at first about showing her vulnerability, because of her age, her lack of experience, and her connection to the family business. But intrinsically she knew that was not only what she needed to do, but was also the right thing to do. From that she learnt that practising vulnerability is a sign of strength, and an incredibly powerful leadership tool.
Develop Your WorkLife Story Chapters
Sharing your story makes you vulnerable. To tell your truthful personal story requires you to reveal a flaw, a mistake, or a difficulty in your WorkLife. This may open you up to being judged. You need to have trust in the people you’re opening up to, a trust that gives you confidence that you’ll be safe, secure and supported. Remember you’re in control of how much you want to reveal.
The stories I write are based on real WorkLife challenges, obstacles and successes. In some stories I share my own experiences, and with permission stories of people I’ve worked with, whose names have been changed to protect their anonymity. Other persons and companies portrayed in the stories are not based on real people or entities.