I recently was involved in a 360 degree feedback debrief with a leader. The leader admitted they were not good at being “vulnerable”. We discussed what vulnerable
actually meant to this leader. Of course “weak” was an adjective that was used. The fear of appearing weak was associated with being vulnerable. We then discussed weak
and what the leader had associated with “weakness”. The discussion focused on weak vs strong in vulnerability. I shared that, on occasion, vulnerable is seen as “being real” by employees. That leadership vulnerability, if done well and appropriately, can build the strength and cohesiveness of teams.
This leader used the opportunity to be vulnerable with her team.
She was honest with them and admitted she had not handled a recent situation well. She also indicated to them that she was struggling with a new project her team was working on because she actually had not lead a project of this scope in the past. She indicated she was going to need to call on them and their knowledge and experience to partner with her to ensure the success of this new project.
What happened next? The team rallied.
It is human nature to want to support others in being successful. It is human nature to have empathy and understand that others sometimes need help. It is human nature to want to contribute. Do you think that leaders fear of being vulnerable ever keeps the lid on productivity because others don’t contribute to leaders (and processes) the way they possibly could if given the opportunity?
The fact that her team rallied also told me that she had done a good job of building her leadership foundation with her team as well. The team has to have some level of trust in the leader prior to the leader being vulnerable with them.
The level of this teams engagement and satisfacation has increased. The leader indicated she was also very satisfied with the outcome and the behavior of her team in the meeting. We all want to know that our leaders and our teams have our backs and will support us. This builds trust, commitment and high performing teams.
Shannon Rios MS LMFT is a high performance coach with leaders and executives. She also focuses on 360 feedback with leaders and managers to create high performing teams.