By Paula Brown Stafford and Lisa T. Grimes
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive.” – Brené Brown
Why do we wear masks? It’s easy to put on a different persona by hiding our real identity. This is all fun during costume parties and masquerade balls, but what about the masks we put on every day that people can’t see?
Vulnerability is one of the most difficult attributes to practice as a leader. It goes against the grain of what we believe a strong leader to be. We think that a leader should always have a positive attitude and to have perfect composure when problems arise. They should exude strength in every area.
However, when we try to live up to the perfect leader we have pictured in our minds, we run into problems. These masks, which society teaches us to wear at a young age, prevent us – leader and follower – from being real, from being our best and from forming closer relationships with others. The longer we wear a certain mask, the more comfortable we get in masquerading with that image. This reminds us of “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Sometimes, ladies, we wear masks to the point we don’t even remember who we are beneath them. With these masks, we’re not good leaders or good followers. We need to be real.
Vulnerability is a Strength
We all have strengths and weaknesses, and it’s easy for us to only reveal our strengths. Forget what you might have been taught. Vulnerability IS a strength, and more than ever, we need REAL. Yes, it’s uncomfortable, but we need leaders who are willing to step up and be real. How many of you have formed a deeper relationship with somebody just because you were willing to take that first uncomfortable step and really be transparent? It unleashes a whole new level of trust, relationship and creativity. It helps to pull out the best in others.
Vulnerability is Contagious
When you’re willing to be vulnerable, the people around you will start building the courage to be vulnerable as well. In fact, practicing vulnerability in the workplace actually helps foster innovation and boost motivation and teamwork. So don’t be afraid to be honest with your team. If something isn’t going well, then say it. If you be honest, then they will be honest, and problems get resolved faster and smoother. Being real does set us free. It frees our minds, so we can be more creative, and we can enjoy the blessing of more clear leadership. Our followers can sense it and feel encouraged to live it out as well.