Vulnerability and integrity

My vulnerability to my own life is irrefutable. Nor do I wish it to be otherwise, as vulnerability is a guardian of integrity.
— Anne Truitt, sculptor and psychologist.

TT facilitatingIt is scary to be vulnerable! In fact, that is why I like being the facilitator rather than a participant. When I am in the front of the room I am always prepared and ready for what is next. I won’t be asked to share and I won’t be caught off guard.

Leaders face the same issue with being vulnerable. It can be hard to share that you don’t have all the answers or that you have made a mistake. You may fear that your uncertainty or missteps will be used against you or cause others to lose confidence in you. Yet that same fear can sabotage your ability to demonstrate your integrity.

Charles Feltman, author of The Thin Book of Trust, puts it this way. “When you wear a mask of invulnerability people won’t trust that they can be open with you. At work this can translate into withholding ideas, information or important feedback. If you don’t let any of your own vulnerabilities show people may see you as strong, but will also question your ability to really care about them and their interests.”

Feltman encourages leaders to be “authentically vulnerable” by acknowledging to people that you:

  • have cares
  • have concerns
  • have fears
  • sometimes make mistakes
  • wrestle with issues

To be an effective leader you must balance this type of vulnerability with competence. People need to have confidence that you can do your job, as well as see you as a real person who is vulnerable and trustworthy. That is integrity in action.

When was the last time you shared a real concern, or talked about a mistake you made, with someone on your team? How did it go?

Todd Thorsgaard





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