When you think of the word “vulnerable,” negative words, such as weak, wimpy, and exposed, likely come to mind. Vulnerability is the antithesis of strength, a very essential characteristic of an effective leader.
A lot of researchers and psychologists are saying otherwise. Research has shown that vulnerability can, in fact, be good for you and your business.
When used in management, being vulnerable does not mean weak, susceptible, or submissive. In fact, the vulnerability is showing courage–the courage to be yourself and be authentic despite the risks, uncertainties, and emotional exposure it brings.
According to social scientist Brené Brown, vulnerability is at the root of human connection. Without it, there can be no real connection between human beings, much more in the workplace.
Vulnerability is what gives authenticity to our relationships because that is how we are wired. Paula Niedenthal, Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, calls this process resonance. It is the way how we observe each other’s state in order to “interact, empathize, or assert our boundaries, whatever the situation may require.” This process happens very fast and below our consciousness that we are not aware it’s happening.
It is like our brains internally sounding off what others feel and do. You experience what others feel just by looking at them. For example, when someone smiles, you smile; when someone frowns, you frown. That is because we internally register what another person feels. That is why when someone gives you a fake smile, you tend to feel uncomfortable rather than comfortable.
In the same way, when you project a strong, perfect, and intelligent personality to gain respect, people to react in the opposite. On the other hand, people deem a leader who is vulnerable as trustworthy because signs of weakness provides authenticity to being a human being.
Two examples of vulnerability are forgiveness and humility. When displayed, both of these characteristics enhance positive performance and produce more positive behavior among your staff and employees.
Forgiveness does not mean tolerating a mistake, but rather the patience and encouragement you give to your employees so they can grow. Instead of getting angry at the mistakes, you give your people time to analyze and repair the situation. According to University of Michigan researcher Kim Cameron, a culture of forgiveness in a company breeds trust, causing an organization to become more resilient in tough and stressful times.
Humility, on the other hand, is the courage to own up your shortcomings. Such behavior shows strength of character because you are aware of the mistakes you have done followed by a solution to the problem.
Owning up to your mistakes without blaming anyone also shows your confidence in handling the situation. In fact, it can even lead to success, because people will see how you handled and solved the situation.
On the other hand, a leader who is not aware of his mistakes can be likened to someone who knows their mistakes but is afraid to admit it. To redeem yourself from such predicament, have the courage to apologize and admit that you don’t have all the answers.
When you allow yourself to become vulnerable, they will begin to think of you as a human being. Then they will become much closer to you, asking you for advice or counsel. They will begin to respect you, even becoming loyal to you.
James Richman is a business author, and much of what he writes about is based on his own experiences–both good and bad–as the CEO of the globally recognized and trusted online technology company 1stWebDesigner.