To put it simply, if you are not willing to be wrong, not willing to be vulnerable, you’re not really leading. Doing only that which you know works from the past, or leading only those who agree with you, is not leading. To lead is to be vulnerable, to step into the unknown, to engage with those that disagree. To be vulnerable is to risk being interpreted differently than you interpret yourself.
To be vulnerable is to be authentic and genuine, and risk others interpreting that authenticity in a negative or disagreeable way.
It’s risking getting hurt — it’s risking hurting others (not intentionally, of course).
To be vulnerable is to trust that those experiencing you will believe the best about you, even if you don’t quite say or do it right; and if they don’t, the willingness to be vulnerable is the willingness to be okay with that. It’s hard, isn’t it?
I personally feel very vulnerable at the thought of putting out political opinions in a public and social way. Even writing here that I am vulnerable about that — makes me feel vulnerable. I have this instinct to protect myself from the kind of criticism I see others receive, and fear how might be judged.
But if I have to protect something, I can’t be fully authentic, can I? Protecting how I’m perceived keeps me from being genuinely real, and to lead myself and others I must first and foremost be real, yes? If we hold back to prevent that vulnerability, we are holding back what might well be the very best we have to give. Heck, there are atheists, right? So even God can’t win them all. If our measure of success is rooted in the elimination of vulnerability and everyone always agreeing with us, then we have have a pretty constrained version of success.
I don’t have a magic spell you can recite for strength and vulnerability — sorry — but I do have a place to begin. Realize, however, this is a muscle that takes exercise to develop.
To be vulnerable, give yourself permission to make a mistake. Being vulnerable is a risk. Why? Because you might be wrong, because you might make a mistake. Let that be okay. In fact, as a leader, I would argue, it’s necessary. It’s absolutely essential to allow yourself to make a mistake, to be human, to be willing to risk being wrong so you can open up the possibility of being right — only then can you truly be vulnerable. Only then can you truly lead.
Where can you give yourself permission to make mistakes?