Vulnerability as a Leadership Quality
Vulnerability — the willingness to be changed and to let the walls down — can be a strength in business leaders. Without it, you can’t lead, learn, or do anything other than what you’ve already been doing. Lack of vulnerability creates an exceptionally threatening world, in which those at the top defend their companies and themselves from risk, from information, and from meaningful relationships.
In a business context, being vulnerable means embracing these underlying principles: openness, transparency, and a willingness to admit that you know nothing — all of which enable you to be curious and receptive to new ideas. Add in a dose of compassion, and you access your heart’s intelligence. Being vulnerable enables you to see and receive information currently being ignored or beyond sight.
How do you practice vulnerability in business or, for that matter, life?
Examine problems from as many different perspectives as possible without engaging one iota of defensiveness. When you do this, you see a whole lot more than you’re currently taking into account. Viewing issues from multiple perspectives protects you from thinking narrowly and missing critical information. It also reduces the chance that you’ll jump to conclusions and increases inquisitiveness, which leaves you open to insights.
Uncover assumptions. Ask yourself, “What am I taking for granted here?” Constantly solicit uncensored feedback so that you learn not to be threatened by uncomfortable information that is essential for sound decision-making. When you uncover assumptions, you build integrity, credibility, and reliability through your willingness to hear both good and bad news.
Approach each situation with a sense of curiosity and complete lack of certainty. A sense of curiosity combined with a lack of certainty means your mind isn’t made up or, if it is, you’re open to adjusting to new information.
When decision-makers fail to practice curiosity and fixate on being certain, they create silos in thinking, a situation that leads to internal turf wars where employees channel their efforts into protecting their territory.
Have compassion and care. Both are part of empathy, the capacity to see and feel from another’s viewpoint. Without empathy, access to intuition — a vital component of sound decision-making — is blocked.