Sometimes being great requires vulnerability

Recent events in my life have brought me to consider the concept of vulnerability from a professional perspective.

There has been a lot of recent literature on the subject and much suggestion that really great leaders, people that truly inspire or even travel through life with apparent dignity and grace are those that understand vulnerability and use it as a skill in their leadership and influence kit bag.

I confess, vulnerability has never been a particular strength of mine. I think it is largely due to the fact that in my professional life it was always demonstrated to me that vulnerability was a weakness, something sometimes to be targeted.  I have spent my entire life convincing myself (and everyone else for that matter) that I am strong, intelligent and I can do it all.

Being vulnerable is not just about showing the parts of you that you think are great qualities in yourself, It’s also about revealing what you keep hidden from other people and may be too afraid to point out your faults for fear of retribution. We all do this to some extent. I bet you have never said to your boss, “you know I really admire in myself the fact I just love that I cant speak in public or argue a point”.

In Brene Browns book “Daring Greatly” she points out that vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it is understanding the necessity of both. It’s being all in, boots and all and going along for the ride whatever the outcome. Strength and vulnerability are not opposites. Vulnerability requires great levels of strength and courage. It requires courage to be whom we are despite our fears of not being accepted or liked. It requires courage to talk about our failures and take accountability for them. It requires courage to admit that we are feeling uncertain or that we don’t know all the answers.

Brown points out that vulnerability is not a weakness or a cry for sympathy, and the uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice, is a question of engagement and our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability.

If we spend our lives waiting and preparing to be perfect or bulletproof before we walk onto the playing field we ultimately sacrifice relationships and opportunities and we waste time.  Brown suggests that rather than sitting on the sidelines and hurling judgment or only half doing something for fear of failure, being willing to engage in something with courage and being prepared for all that comes our way is actually the next level of evolution in our strength as leaders.

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