The Value of Embracing Vulnerable Leadership

    We are all well aware by now that the pandemic has brought on mutual feelings of stagnation, overwhelm, and blah.

    One survey conducted by a global employment platform discovered that about 69% of remote workers are experiencing symptoms of burnout. This is a 20% jump from a similar survey conducted two months earlier.

    Another survey revealed that employees are now over three times more likely to report poor mental health than they did prior to the pandemic.

    Before 2020, it was easy to ignore claims of burnout, but our post-pandemic world has changed the narrative around mental health, burnout, and vulnerability, especially in the workplace.

    Vulnerability has often been viewed negatively due to it stemming from deep-rooted feelings of fear and insecurity, yet it can be a powerful tool for developing clarity and empathy.

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    In a way, Covid-19 leveled the playing field by showing us that we are all susceptible to the virus, regardless of our demographic and background.

    Sure, some people may need to be more cautious than others, but nobody is truly immune.

    When it’s easy to accept this for our physical health, why do we resist admitting the same for our mental health?

    We are all susceptible to the virus of burnout.

    According to Brene Brown, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”

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    So how can leaders embrace vulnerability in the workplace?

    It starts at the top; as leaders embrace vulnerability, they become more authentic in their interactions and approachable to their peers and those they lead.

    Vulnerable leadership looks like having the courage to share when you feel challenged and asking your team (your peers and those you lead) to have your back in the same way that you have their back.

    Leaders who show that they too make mistakes, have bad days and get nervous before important meetings and presentations create a safe space for their teams to relate, empathize, and communicate.

    At the end of the day, it’s all about creating psychological safety so that your team feels safe to discuss their thoughts, fears, ideas, and share achievements.

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    One way to foster an organizational culture of vulnerability is to recognize, acknowledge, and reward vulnerability.

    Consider rewarding your people who share vulnerably by…

    - Celebrating people who ask questions
    - Acknowledging people who speak up during and after meetings
    - Rewarding people who disagree and offer new ideas when problem-solving

    Rewarding desired behaviors encourages others to follow suit and the more your team shares vulnerably, the more psychological safety and trust this will create in the team.

    When everyone has a voice and can bring their authentic selves to work, innovation and engagement will flourish.

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    Celebrating Mistakes

    Celebrating mistakes as “happy accidents” is another way to embrace vulnerability and create psychological safety.

    Show your team that mistakes are learning moments, not something to feel stressed or judged about.

    As you change the narrative around “mistakes”, it will make it easier for employees to allow themselves to open up, ask for help, and share their setbacks.

    When team members truly open up, they enter a world of continuous improvement and constant calculated risk-taking that will drive massive innovation efforts.

    After all, you learn more from your mistakes than you learn from your successes.

    “You have to be honest and authentic and not hide. I think the leader today has to demonstrate both transparency and vulnerability, and with that comes truthfulness and humility.” - Howard Schultz

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    I personally experienced the benefits of vulnerability and empathy at the workplace through a mandatory practice demonstrated by my manager during our weekly status calls.

    My manager would first ask each of us to identify emotion from the feelings wheel and subsequently talk about it for one minute.

    This exercise helped each of us become aware of our own and each other’s current emotional state, thus allowing us to become self-aware and create a stronger bond as a team.


    Vulnerable leadership

    - Having the courage to share when you feel challenged
    - Rewarding acts of vulnerability
    - Reframe mistakes as learning moments

    When used correctly, vulnerability can be an immensely powerful tool to:

    - Drive conversations with Clarity
    - Increase accountability and Autonomy
    - Build stronger bonds and Relationships
    - Create psychological safety through feelings of Equity

    In essence, vulnerable leaders CARETM.

    Do you strive to become a vulnerable leader? Do you CARE?


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