dinsdag 14 juli 2015

From inaccessible to vulnerable leadership

Vulnerability pays off. It is found in all kinds of research that vulnerability is a huge asset and it leads to measurable better outcomes. 60% of the managers in a Dutch research (2007) believe that showing emotions in the workplace will help the business. And who has not seen the impressive TEDtalk by Brene Brown: ‘the power of vulnerability’ and has become a true believer? No problem here, I should think.

Yet, that thinking is often the problem. Leaders have learned to behave cognitive, to rationalize everything. Leaders often have unlearned to respond spontaneously and to be vulnerable. Traits that were, not so long ago, often seen as a sign of weakness. And this is still the case in many organizations. I experience regularly that when managers show their emotions, they afterwards make apologies and tell me they had a bad day...

And no, we don’t need to open all up and cry over everything we’ve been through. Vulnerability is about telling others that you don’t know everything, that you struggle, that things affect you and that you sometimes need help.

I think this is perhaps the biggest challenge for future leaders. For the leaders I have encountered over the last years, vulnerability was their biggest challenge. They were certainly very open and transparent, but vulnerability is just yet another step, in my view. The ones who truly showed it, made a huge impact on others.

Let me be clear about this: I myself find vulnerability really hard. I'm pretty open and transparent, but showing my emotions? I find it terribly difficult. I often have beliefs that I have to be strong, that I have to be in control. However, the times I could show myself, the effects were astonishing. My colleagues backed me up, business became better and I felt relieved. Overall I felt tremendously supported.

And yet those wonderful memories often do not win from our ancient survival instincts that tell us not to be vulnerable. In prehistoric times it was dangerous to be vulnerable, you could be killed right away... And our most powerful part of the brain is the part that originated from that time. And so: as we grow up we unlearn to be vulnerable, because you can get hurt. Hurt children often become traumatized adults. The extraordinary thing is though, that in our adult life we cling to those experiences, although they are not true anymore. In fact; showing yourself with everything you’ve got leads to many positive effects as I have previously stated.

And so vulnerability remains a fight. A fight between ancient survival mechanisms and inhibited beliefs on the one hand that urge us not to show ourselves, and on the other hand the fact that we are indeed vulnerable creatures and showing that will enrich us and the ones surrounding us. 

So: do you have the guts to really show yourself?

The world is waiting for you.

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