You may react to this title as though it is an oxymoron. How can that be true? Vulnerable and Powerful? Not possible, at least if you operate from a traditional set of management operating beliefs.
But, there is a limit of how far my power will take me when I lead solely from the strength of my authority and intellect. In order to access my full power, I need to look inside my heart where I connect with my message.
My mind can shape the path and guide the course. My mind can ostensibly deliver a message of strength through firm words of direction with confidence. Yet my people will not always be influenced and less likely inspired – even when they agree with what I say.
Though, when I am willing to cede control of agenda and outcome and open up to exploring the undiscovered rather than solving the problem in a rational, linear approach, my whole being emerges through the tandem play of my intellectual knowledge and emotional presence – that’s when we authentically connect. You connect with the tender, scared, sweet, hopeful, anxious, excited, little boy inside me who is trying his best to get along, get things done, find fulfillment … the vulnerable me. You connect with the deepest part of me, and ultimately, will listen, really listen, to the meaning underneath my message. That’s when you truly see my strength.
It’s a paradox. When I control you, directing you with my authority to take action, you may oblige – but without commitment and with less of your power. Yet, when I show up vulnerable and am open to letting go of controlling you, I have a higher success rate of influencing and inspiring you to come with me, and you ultimately commit with all of your power.
Leaders who show up with vulnerability are more powerful than those who control with the strength of their authority.
Here are the Five C’s that unfold when the vulnerable leader shines his power on the team:
Admitting that I do not know, or do not have the solution or answer, by acknowledging blocks and owning or taking responsibility of my part in why or how we are blocked from getting to the solution, is a welcome sign of courageous risk-taking that invites others to stretch their own courage.
Being vulnerable makes it more likely others will reciprocate. Communication is generative taking the conversation to deeper levels. At new depth, people actively listen so they not only hear more of what is said, they also listen to all of what I am saying with their head and heart.
We connect more when I am vulnerable because you give yourself permission to be vulnerable when I model it. Contrast the difference between me telling you something about myself, which opens you up – and questioning/ interrogating you, which makes you close down and control the conversation. Our relationship becomes authentic instead of transactional. Now trust builds, as vulnerability is the currency of exchange in our relationship.
When we’re vulnerable, there is less to hide – no hidden agendas that anyone is controlling. Now free to explore the deepest current of the conversation, the team will set itself up for success and establish buy-in for commitment.
Vulnerability opens me to connect on an emotional dimension. Feeling someone’s heart is the best way of knowing another. And, when we connect with our humanity, we do not need to revert to titles and authority. We help because we care about and want to support each other.