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Leadership’s Courageous Vulnerability

One client of mine is extraordinarily effective at leading one of his teams. They listen to him. They know the drill. They buy into their team being as effective as possible. But he’s invited me in because of his woes with another team. It is filled with a younger generation who don’t seem to understand him. They push back against his instructions. They complain to his boss or HR, rather than confront him.

Originally, he tells me it’s because they’re young. “Why don’t they want to work?” “Don’t they understand why this is important?” “They’re just lazy!” And the resentment builds. Felt acutely by him and even more so by the team, prompting further dysfunction, decreased productivity and morale.

We realize, though, it’s not just about the younger generation. He agrees that it is about expanding his leadership range. About his courage to be vulnerable in front of the team.

Courageous vulnerability is fundamentally about getting out of your comfort zone. It is about not knowing the answer and being willing to ask questions. It’s about not knowing the outcome exactly, but trusting that it will be revealed. It is vulnerable because it is uncomfortable. It is vulnerable because it is imperfect. It can soften us because when others are courageously vulnerable, we recognize ourselves.

So he begins. He commits each day to showing up differently with this team than before. For him, this means asking personal questions and approaching them differently when there is push back. It means getting curious about things. He tells me how hard this is for him, but he is so committed to the organization and the effectiveness of his teams that he is willing to be uncomfortable.

I write this because he is an effective leader – and one that the organization values and wants to retain. But it is his courage that connects me most to him. And I suspect his young team as well. He tells me they have begun to treat him differently. Work together differently. Begin to come up with collective solutions to their team’s productivity and efficiency.

Where do we hold ourselves back by trying to ignore our ineptness, or ineffectiveness? Where can we find our leadership stretch through courageous vulnerability and not knowing?

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