ECCO Internatoinal

Vulnerability: The Key to Being Your Authentic Self

If you read the recent article about the BANI world we live and operate in, then you are well aware that the pandemic, the cultural shift of working from home and polarizing politics have all resulted in a more segmented way of working.

It’s harder than ever for us to create a trusting work environment where we engage our employees and where our employees want to stay.

So what is the secret to creating this inclusive work environment?

The 2023 top leadership research from Deloitte, Forbes and Gartner supports all human-centric skills and people management skills. We must be authentic to connect with our team members. We must be reachable and approachable. Inclusive leadership today involves the critical skill of vulnerability.

What exactly is vulnerability?

It has a bad reputation because it has often been associated with weakness, which goes completely against our U.S. cultural grain.

In reality:

Vulnerability is the feeling of emotional exposure and uncertainty. It is the willingness to show up and be seen, even when there is no guarantee of the outcome.

Dr. Brené Brown

As a leader, this looks like letting your team know that you don’t have all the answers. You are your authentic self when you admit your mistakes and ask for your help when you need it.

A key part of demonstrating vulnerability is the willingness and openness to engage constructively and collaboratively in those difficult conversations with your team members. Vulnerability breaks down barriers so we are more sincere, which allows the space for those hard conversations. A difficult conversation does not necessarily mean conflict. In these conversations, we may say things like “tell me more,” instead of passing judgment.

To demonstrate vulnerability means we have the potential to develop more authentic relationships. We share more, we learn more and we can then be more productive. It creates a space of less stress and more hope.

Finally, showing grace is an element of being more vulnerable. We must give each other a break sometimes. This is a skill we haven’t developed in our culture, because we may have limited experience seeing it in everyday situations. We see too many employees burned out and fried because they haven’t received any grace. Your leaders can learn from YOU when you role model these critical skills.

When leaders demonstrate vulnerability, they are being courageous in showing others their authentic selves. It’s an essential skill leaders need to model to have a more inclusive workplace.

Amy S. Tolbert, Ph.D., and Certified Speaking Professional is the founder and principal of ECCO International (Energizing Cultural Change in Organizations). She specializes in creating inclusive cultures through online courses, keynote presentations, and facilitated workshops and training. She is the author of Reversing the Ostrich Approach to Diversity: Pulling Your Head Out of the Sand.


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