The power of vulnerability in female leadership, a guest post by Kate Turner

Vulnerability; it’s a word on so many leader’s lips, yet many often misunderstand how to deal with it in a business environment. For instance, many believe that to be vulnerable they have to expose their inner most thoughts, or spill out their childhood secrets, but this isn’t the case at all at all.

Rather vulnerability is about bravery. It is about being courageous and most importantly leaving our ego at door. Individuals in leadership positions -especially female leaders – are so used to fighting their way to the top, that they often forget that it’s ok not to know every answer and that it’s ok to rely on others.

Vulnerability is a leader saying, “I don’t know”, “I got that wrong” and “I’m sorry I hurt you.” It isn’t bearing your soul to all, cowering in the corner and, most importantly, it isn’t a sign of weakness, no matter what gender you are. The sooner leaders understand this, the more likely they are to be able to motivate others, be better leaders and succeed as a team.

Fortunately vulnerability is becoming more widely understood and that is definitely partly thanks to people like Brene Brown and the work she has done around vulnerability. In Brene’s book, the Power of Vulnerability, she talks about taking off our armour, which is an analogy I love. Because this is exactly what business leaders (both male and female) need to do to foster strong leadership and create motivated teams.

For me, trust and vulnerability must go hand in hand. To have trust you need vulnerability and to have vulnerability you need trust; it’s a bit of a catch 22 actually. Neither are going to change the world overnight, rather a you will need to layer it in. It’s a gradual build up over time. Leaders, and role models, will therefore need to recognise the importance of trust and vulnerability within their team. Most importantly they will need to call this way of working out, celebrate when it goes well and confront it when it goes wrong.

So, the question is, how do we debunk this myth around vulnerability? Well firstly we need to catch people doing it right. So, if you see other people showing up in the right version of vulnerability, then say to them that you saw it and congratulate them. This is the way to start making a measurable change.

Here are my three top tips on how leaders can use the power of vulnerability to become better leaders.

  1. Lead by example: Team leaders need to engender trust within their team by admitting to getting it wrong. They need to give their team permission to do the same. Everyone must leave their ego at the door. 
  2. Call it out: People must catch others doing it right, call them out and most importantly celebrate it:
  3. Let yourself be the project you are working on: Start small, get comfortable and start layering up trust and vulnerability. It’s not going to happen overnight, but when you finally get there, the results will be staggering.

By Kate Turner, director at Motivational Leadership, a leadership development consultancy.

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