In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown* describes vulnerability as ‘uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure’. Her research indicates that we see vulnerability as a strength in others but as a weakness in ourselves. (This feels true to me!)
It’s easy to think that we would first need a trusting base in a leadership team to show vulnerability. ‘I will show vulnerability when I know I can trust my peers…’
In fact, research is showing us that it’s the other way around.
‘Vulnerability doesn’t come after trust – it precedes that. Leaping into the unknown, when done alongside others, causes the solid ground of trust to materialise beneath our feet.’
Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code**
Vulnerability is a trust superpower!
Yamini’s journey towards genuine vulnerability and trustworthiness
Yamini, a senior leader and working parent, is passionate about supporting other working parents. She openly shares stories about her family and the challenges of balancing work and home life. She always informs her colleagues when she leaves to pick up her kids from school, knowing this sets an example.
Feedback like ‘she should show more vulnerability’, and ‘I don’t feel like I know the real Yamini,’ surprised and perplexed her. She believed she was already sharing authentically by discussing her family. When I asked Yamini if discussing her children and the struggles of being a working mother made her uncomfortable, she replied, ‘Not really. I think it’s important to talk about these things.’
Yamini was not showing true vulnerability. True vulnerability goes beyond comfort. The penny dropped for Yamini in a meeting where she shared a personal experience and felt genuinely uneasy. Later that day, several executives reached out to thank her for sharing and for trusting them with her story. That was the real essence of vulnerability.
How is your relationship with vulnerability? What is your reaction to the notion that vulnerability comes before trust? How could you allow yourself to be more vulnerable to build trust?
Go fearlessly – Corrinne
* Brown, B 2016, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Penguin Life.
** Coyle, D 2019, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Random House Business.