Vulnerability for More Effective Business Leadership

effective leadership
“A team that's inspired with the same goal in mind can be less susceptible to turnover.”



Running a business is a challenge, as those in charge know. While it takes firm leadership, it also takes other essential skills. One of the most important, but often overlooked, characteristics is vulnerability. A strong leader doesn’t have to simply establish and enforce rules but to work alongside employees, sharing the challenges and rewards and showing the relevance of those rules in having business success.



What Is Vulnerability in a Business Environment?


Vulnerability makes for a more authentic and powerful leader. Courageous leaders know when it's time to show their vulnerability so they can connect with people in meaningful ways that help them innovate or learn on the fly.

However, if vulnerabilities go unchecked, energy will get invested in ways to combat perceived weaknesses. The wounds end up buried more deeply, and creativity gets squashed which can diminish innovation.


It's not always easy to say, "I don't know." But when a leader acknowledges mistakes and wrongdoings, they open themselves up for growth. The gifts lie in an environment where people feel safe enough with their leaders that these admissions can happen without fear or worry about what will come next from either side of the conversation.


Leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and share their professional and personal experiences with everyone transform performance for themselves and help transform an organization. The boldest act of a leader is being open about what's going on to create more successful partnerships, build trust between co-workers or clients, improve communication abilities among team members, and boost morale within the workplace. The power of vulnerability comes when it builds strong relationships, leading to tremendous success overall.



Vulnerability and Productivity Go Hand in Hand


When you want to know how to be vulnerable, be willing to say "no." For example, if someone asks you to do something you don't specialize in, politely refuse the request and explain why while respectfully keeping the time they've invested in mind. It will allow them some degree of freedom without wasting it on something unnecessary, like doing things just because others expect them to.


One of the best ways to get started with a new project is simply by saying "yes." It may seem easier said than done, but it's essential. It can be challenging for people who are anxious or unsure if their idea will work out well because they're afraid of having a defective product as a result. When this happens, though, you should take your leap! So often, fear holds us back from trying things that benefit us most.

If getting excited about something doesn't make sense, then maybe there isn't any passion behind what we want. This excitement leads to increased productivity.



The Important Human Side of Leadership


What does vulnerability mean? Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather the opposite. Vulnerability puts us at risk of being seen by others in uncertain situations. However, we must always be willing to show ourselves for who we are, even with our flaws.


Being vulnerable is necessary for innovation and creativity. To be vulnerable, you have two options:

  1. Admit your weaknesses.

  2. Take a risk in an uncertain situation which can lead to new opportunities.

Both of these create change.


Many of us are unclear about how to be ourselves at work. We might be afraid that it will make others uncomfortable or think we can't take a genuine interest in what we do without betraying ourselves and feeling like an exhibitionist. You must be willing to be vulnerable and open with your past mistakes or what might feel like embarrassing topics of conversation, though. Any company can improve by starting new discussions that might lead them on a fresh path or inspire better engagement from their team members as they do business every day.


An effective leader will find a way to balance being vulnerable with exhibiting the strength it takes to manage the business and its employees. To do so will require certain characteristics. Some of the behavioral traits of a good leader to look for are:

  • Self-discipline
  • Curiosity
  • Creativity
  • Planning
  • Integrity
  • Willingness to take risk



With Vulnerability Comes Honesty


The demand for leadership has changed dramatically over time. Leaders are no longer seen as people who can do anything and are always right. Still, they must demonstrate that their authority is legitimate for them to command respect and motivate those under them.


The traditional model of leading through action was once standard among modern-day leaders. However, this approach has been replaced by one heavily focused on inspiring followers' commitment – both personally and professionally.


Leaders want to be seen as an open book, not a blank canvas. They need the ability and courage to create stronger relationships with their teams, resulting in better productivity overall. This begins with honesty in communication and having those difficult conversations with employees.


Being vulnerable is not the same as being emotional. To be an influential leader, you need to show your team that they can trust and depend on you when things get tough, and this takes true courage! What's a good way of doing so? Admit defeat in face-to-face meetings with colleagues by asking for help from better-qualified people than yourself. Also, admit failure after an experiment goes wrong rather than continuing down what has been determined as the wrong road.

The right team needs more than qualified workers. You could have experienced and knowledgeable employees, but without inspiration they're just working to meet the bare minimum.



Honesty Leads to Higher Employee Retention


The best way to keep employees happy and motivated is by maintaining a positive work environment. Your employees should feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns because you are understanding and willing to hear them out. Being accessible is a synonym for vulnerable. No one can fix every problem, of course, so it's also important to accept when someone just isn't the best fit for your team.


A team that's inspired with the same goal in mind can be less susceptible to turnover. It not only applies to your company but also each employee's well-being. It makes them feel valued both personally and as an individual contributor or member of staff.


It's a great feeling when you can celebrate the hard work and success of your staff. A simple thank you will go a long way in showing them appreciation for all they do, from behind the scenes to front desk duties. Be honest about needing help from every member of your team and recognize each one's unique abilities.



Final Thoughts


We all experience different emotions. Learning to recognize, understand, and talk about them can help improve our ability to be vulnerable. Empathy and understanding shows emotional intelligence, which is important in being a successful leader.


There is a certain amount of risk associated with vulnerability, and the degree of risk may vary depending on your field of business. Despite those risks, though, vulnerability also carries with it a certain level of reward. Finding the balance of risk versus reward requires the willingness to be open and honest with others in the workplace. When others see you as honest and sincere, they will go to great lengths to reciprocate, resulting in greater teamwork and success for all.



Author’s Bio:

Aaron Vick | Muti-X Founder, Startup Advisor, Author of Leaderpreneur: A Leadership Guide for Startups and Entrepreneurs & Inevitable Revolutions: Secrets and Strategies for a Successful Business. You can follow Aaron on LinkedIn and Twitter.






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