The biggest misconception in corporate America is the thinking that vulnerability and weakness are synonymous. They couldn’t be more opposite. If you don’t think so, think about the kind of managers
you want to work for and respond yes or no to the following:
- Has all the answers.
- Does not ask for suggestions on the ability to lead more effectively.
- Refuses to confront sensitive interpersonal issues.
- Frequently keeps office door shut with a sign on it that says, “Not Now!”
This last one may seem like a joke. It isn’t. At a particular organization, this is promptly displayed for all direct reports and those who pass by to see. Yikes.
To clarify, vulnerability in leadership is not reflected by managers who are quivering bowls of insecurity that freak out twice a day, questioning themselves out loud on every decision. Vulnerability is demonstrated by managers who have both the confidence and courage to make tough choices.
Yet, in the process of these choices, they are willing to reach out for help, because it’s in the best interest of the organization as well their continued development.
The following are five areas that demonstrate the strong, vulnerable leader. Do a quick self-assessment as to how you measure against these:
Ask the opinion of those lower in rank.
Many managers view their competencies as milestones they passed, no different than a child who has learned to crawl then walk. Why look back? Yet, the perspectives of those under you not only builds morale and makes team members feel valued, managers may learn a fresh perspective they never considered.
Be willing to apologize and admit fault.
No one wakes up and thinks, “I can’t wait to screw something up so I can make a public apology!” Yet, the well-managed ego of a leader knows that both trust and character is on the line when it comes this one.
Get feedback from direct reports.
This is a distinction as the strong, vulnerable leader proactively seeks specific areas to be more aware and effective. This willingness to be enlightened is paramount for modeling continuous improvement.
Ask customers to critique your service.
Verbal critiques are best here so dialogue is involved. We have a propensity to bristle when those not making or selling our products or services chirp up. But the perch from which they view our approach to service not only offers a different vantage point, but one that may increase future business and referrals based on the openness of that relationship.
Tell colleagues to hold you accountable.
Empowering a circle of trusted advisers, above and below you in rank, creates a positive environment, one that knows higher trust, support and stronger likelihood of better performance outcomes.
Which one of these qualities resonates with you most? If you immediately have a couple in mind, that’s a good sign. If you are willing to openly discuss these with those you work with, that’s a great sign. Stay vulnerable, my friends.
Joe Takash is the president of Victory Consulting, a Chicago-based sales and leadership development firm. Joe is a keynote speaker for executive retreats, sales conferences and management meetings and he has appeared in many national media outlets. His firm, Victory Consulting, coaches executive teams and individual leaders, helping them maximize strategic execution. Learn more at www.victoryconsulting.com.