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Are you reading it right —  Vulnerability as a leadership skill? Every time anyone has talked about leadership skills, vulnerability as a skill was never mentioned. A leader is synonymous to everything strong.

But why have we forgotten that a leader is a human being? People associated with a leader and around him are also human beings.

Few leaders themselves are coached with the belief that the workplace does not belong to insecurity. In fact, the best tool for communication and confidence building is vulnerability.

Research shows that when we feel a personal bond with them, our brains respond positively to people. We try harder, perform better, and our colleagues are kinder. The management of command and control is on its way out, and there are managers who exercise empathy and make an attempt to communicate with their subordinates.

Even if it makes them feel uncomfortable, leaders’ ability to be open and honest is important because it builds trust. The fake concerned leader is easily detectable. If a leader never displays emotion, the certainty grows much higher. But we sense a bond and are more inclined to accept the words when a leader shows a more intimate side to oneself, and we feel that it is real.

Vulnerability as the Team Binding Glue

If you ever have come across Brene Brown’s Ted talk ,The Power of Vulnerability, one can find the answer to “Why Being Vulnerable at Work Can Be Your Biggest Advantage”.  Her Tedtalk is the 4th most watched Ted talk video. It is a commonly held misconception. It has been shown time and again that being vulnerable is correlated with weakness. 

However, Brené believes that it is the exact opposite. If you have the courage to turn up and be heard by others in the face of unpredictable results, you are vulnerable. There is no act of bravery, no matter how small, that does not also involve vulnerability.  Brown says “To feel is to be vulnerable.” So when we consider vulnerability to be a weakness, we consider feeling one’s emotions to be so, too, she says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage.”

When you are honest about your experiences, genuine connections are created. The best relationships are fuelled by vulnerability and can change performance to help bring an organization more success. A leader’s boldest act is to be openly weak. “The climate of imperfection is fostered by a leader admitting “I don’t know” or “l was wrong. The gifts are in the capacity of a leader to put themselves on the line in a way that understands that you don’t need to get all the responses, and we can build the answer together.

All should agree that trust is a key component of a collaborative workplace, but it is such a big idea that it can be difficult to put your finger on exactly what it means. Brené breaks it down into seven component components defined by the acronym BRAVING to help people get a sense of the essence of trust, as a strong link with someone else. In leaders and coworkers who exemplify faith and trustworthiness, these are the seven behavioral characteristics to look for:

  • Boundaries: Set boundaries of your own and accept those of others.
  • Reliability: Deliver what you promise. Which means not over-promising at work, being honest about limits, and meeting deadlines.
  • Accountability: Own up to your acts and correct your mistakes.
  • Vault: Do not exchange private information that doesn’t belong to you.
  • Integrity: Follow through with your convictions, no matter how complicated or uncomfortable, and you remain true to your ideals even when no one is watching.
  • Non-judgment: Ask for help yourself without judging from whom you are asking. Similarly provide help without judging those who ask.
  • Generosity: Give people the benefit of the doubt when they have good intentions, ideas or plans. 

A genuinely heart-centered leader reveals their vulnerability and recognizes that inside an organisation, it deepens the bonds of trust. Inspiring leaders do not need to oversell what is possible, but to empower and energize a workforce, they should also spread confidence in the team. People want to work with someone who can accept their faults, not for false prophets who lead without revealing who they are in private. 

How to be Selective Vulnerable?

As Brown puts it, “Life is vulnerable.” Being vulnerable isn’t the choice we have to make, she says. Rather, the choice is how we respond when the elements of vulnerability greet us: uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. Many of us respond by avoiding or suppressing vulnerability. Some of us hesitate to be vulnerable because we assume that means exposing our “secrets.” We assume that being vulnerable means spilling our hearts to strangers, and as Brown says it, “letting it all hang out.” But vulnerability embraces boundaries and trust, she says. “Vulnerability is about sharing our feelings and our experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them. Being vulnerable takes courage.”

The best leaders are able to hit a pause button when they become emotional. This is where you need to learn how to be Selective Vulnerable.

You need to share to build trust, but then you also need not overshare to not destroy the trust established. This balance is what you call “selective vulnerability.”

People in charge have to worry about whether to be transparent longer and harder than the rest of us because they have more attention on them. Their reports observe and evaluate their words and behavior for a deeper purpose every time they are insecure. So, when is sharing actually oversharing? The way to find a balance between the two is to be selectively vulnerable, or open up to your team while also prioritizing their and your own boundaries.

The best leaders are open about how they feel while offering a clear service forward concurrently.

Below are some tips to help you do this:

Figure yourself out and communicate. Ask yourself, instead of behaving instantly, “What exactly am I feeling?” Including why? What is the reason behind this feeling?

Try to regulate your emotions. You need to know how to handle them until you recognize your emotions. This is as critical as your reports being handled.

Address your emotions while not being emotionally leaky. We are also worse at concealing our emotions than we think. Your staff will most likely pick up on your poor mood if you’re irritated or angry, and may believe that they are responsible for it.

The goal is to be practical, but hopeful. Practise how you’re going to share your feelings with your team while you’re undertaking a difficult project, and make sure you do it with purpose. In a reactive or unthoughtful way, throwing your feelings on them leaves a lot of space for misinterpretation.

Understanding where to avoid oversharing. “To find out whether you’re going to overshare, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself: “How would I feel if my boss told me this? If it’s something you’d be grateful to hear about, chances are your stories are going to sound identical. If it’s something that will give you a break, err on the cautionary side.

Keep your intentions in check. Are you sharing with others from a position of honesty, or are you trying to create a connection? We overshare personal experiences often just to feel close to someone else. But sometimes, this is not helpful or effective.

Read the Atmosphere of the Room. If you think your team members may be nervous about the project, it’s all right to uncover those feelings to make them feel less alone.

You’re really never meant to reveal as a manager or chief that you’re having a rough day. Coping with it is the right thing to do. Instead say, “I am having a tough day out to your squad, and I’m doing my best not to take it out on you.” 

As a leader you don’t have to go into more depth, but it helps you avoid causing needless anxiety among your employees by knowing your feelings.

It is not simple to find the right balance between sharing and oversharing. But it can be achieved with practice. As a leader, recognizing the important role that your emotions play and harnessing them in ways that will help your team succeed is your responsibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is being vulnerable important?

To think that vulnerability is a show of weakness is to think that emotions  are a sign of weakness. Being vulnerable is vital because it helps us to express the things that have affected us and to feel compassion while doing so.

Define selective vulnerability?

You must share in order to create trust, but you must not overshare in order to undermine the trust. This equilibrium is referred to as selective vulnerability.

How does vulnerability help to build leadership skills?

Vulnerability motivates leaders to be more honest and form bonds that contribute to better results. Vulnerability encourages the creation of stronger relationships and an improvement in emotional interaction, as well as the growth of leadership skills

Who is a vulnerable leader?

A vulnerable leader recognises that he or she does not have all the answers, engages their people’s experiences and opinions, and does not have to be the first to have an idea or the first to respond.

Does vulnerability leadership indicate weakness as a leader?

Vulnerability leadership does not indicate weakness or subordination. Rather, it denotes the desire to be oneself. It entails supplementing confusion, danger, and emotional exposure for “professionalism and keeping a distance.