Leaders in any sphere are always conscious of the fact that their decisions and actions influence the lives of others. It can feel a bit like everyone’s waiting for you to make the next move, and that any slip-up can dent your credibility and your team’s fate. In such situations, you might find it difficult to show any sign of vulnerability. But are those fears real?
Leaders often feel that showing any signs of vulnerability can make them seem weak, powerless, or even cowardly. However, in reality, it signals courage and trust in the people around you. It is also good for your mental health to embrace both parts of yourself: the strong parts and not-so-strong parts. When you choose to be vulnerable, you also allow yourself to heal.
Why Leaders Should Embrace Vulnerability
1. It helps you connect with others:
Many leaders enjoy being put on a pedestal. The downside of that, however, is that it makes it tough for their team to connect with them personally. When you eschew the need for a flawless image and open up about your struggles, hardships, and weak moments, it creates a sense of empathy and it then becomes easier to understand each other better.
2. You lead by example:
When you stop fighting how you feel and embrace vulnerability, you send out a strong message to your team about accepting yourself just the way you are. This, in turn, helps normalise emotional struggle and encourages others, too, to accept the good and bad days at work.
3. It helps you get support:
The fear of being perceived as weak can make it difficult to ask for help. But it is this very fear that takes you further away from receiving support. When you acknowledge your vulnerability, you become open to receiving support and care from others. Every individual needs support and there’s nothing wrong with asking for it.
4. It encourages people to bring their full selves to work:
You encourage people to become authentic and transparent at the workplace. When we try hard to deny or disown parts of our own selves, we deprive ourselves of self-love and acceptance.
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How to Allow Yourself to be Vulnerable
Own up to the bad days
Whenever you find yourself feeling sad, demotivated, or simply under the weather, you can choose to be transparent about it with your team, preferably over a casual cup of coffee. This will allow you some space to share your feelings, and will also help your employees understand that their leader is also human and may struggle on some days.
Admit you don’t have the answers
The great thing about admitting you don’t necessarily have all the answers to every problem your organisation faces, is that you can encourage people to think outside the box for solutions. Many heads are always better than one, so don’t be afraid to throw these challenges to your team.
Be open to others’ suggestions
If you have the courage to share your thoughts, also be ready for feedback from your team. The feedback may not necessarily be relevant or useful, but it’s important to realise that it’s coming from a sincere place. Whether the ideas are useful or not, hear them out and thank your listeners for being a good audience.
Talk about the path you took
While talking about struggles, also talk about how you’re dealing with the problem. It could be through therapy, meditation, mindfulness, activity, or better work-life balance. Having a proactive attitude towards the problem, instead of resigning yourself to it, communicates inner strength and determination.
Help others speak up too
All-hands catch-ups are usually done only to discuss project updates and to-do tasks. You can also start monthly/bi-monthly all-hands meetings where people can discuss their personal journeys without judgement or stigma. An alternative is to start support groups or sharing circles at your workplace around specific themes, such as stress, sleep loss, anxiety, etc.