The Journey of a Fascination with Leadership Vulnerability
It was December 2010 when I first watched the TED talk that has now gained over 36 million views. The speaker was engaging. There was something about her that was unapologetically human and compelling in her story telling. That’s Brené Brown. The talk was recommended to me by my own coach and as I watched I was intrigued but wasn’t sure where she was going with her story. Much like watching a mystery movie there were hints and clues along the way but without the full picture difficult to piece them all together. And then there it was, vulnerability. A word I had not considered and became immediately drawn to know more.
I became curious about the role that vulnerability played in leadership and teams and began exploring the concepts with clients in Energy, Engineering, Legal, Finance, Manufacturing, Transportation, Non-Profit, Government, Retail, Construction and more. There it was, vulnerability again and again as these leaders and teams faced tough decisions with no right answers, navigated difficult conversations with uncertain outcomes, raised innovative ideas to move the organization or team forward, braved doing what was right over what was popular or easy.
This continued fascination with the role vulnerability plays in leadership brought me to study with Brené Brown’s organization and become a Certified Daring Way Facilitator. Doing so gave me a new process to support leaders embrace the mindset of vulnerability and how it could help them be more courageous leaders. I began incorporating the work into individual coach, leadership team development programs and bringing it to wider audiences in conferences and found the more we talked about uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure, the more it opened up possibilities for people.
Doing this work has been transformational for the leaders who have braved looking vulnerability in the face and they asked for more tools and to develop the skills of vulnerability and resilience and to deal with the inevitable missteps, disappointments and setbacks that come with being brave and taking courageous action. I pulled together from many thought leaders including Simon Sinek, Kristin Neff, Bill George, Bob Anderson, Charles Feltman, Carol Dweck, Dr. Henry Cloud and many others yet there were still gaps to fill. (If you haven’t read the work of these thought leaders – you might want to check them out!)
I’ve learned that courage can’t exist without letting go of being liked, letting go of being right and letting go of winning and that true leadership requires the same letting go. I’ve also learned it’s a journey of practice with no end point, but also that you can learn the skills to practice. It’s a journey not for the faint of heart because you don’t get more comfortable over time, you develop the self confidence that you can step into tough situations again and again and the tools you have will help you navigate your way through to the other side. That feeling of “the hot sweats” or “warm nausea” show that you’re human and that you care. I wouldn’t want you to lose that and the fact is you can’t.
I’m excited that Brené Brown’s latest book, Dare To Lead, also comes new tools and processes I’ll be able to bring to leaders to build and practice more skills to support their desire to step into greater courage and reach their highest potential. To become someone others want to follow without armouring up and trying to be someone else.