So began our leadership sessions last week. You might think with an opening like that, my group would have turned and run for the hills. Quite the contrary: After an initial moment of “For real?” these professionals delved into our topics with honesty and great candor.
Afterwards, I think we all left the room feeling like a weight had lifted.
Professor and author Brene Brown has paved this path of conversation for us with The Gifts of Imperfection and, more recently, Daring Greatly. Her practical, down-to-earth warmth coupled with decades of research has opened floodgates of discussion. Once-taboo topics that deeply impact us all can now hold center stage.
So what place does vulnerability hold in leadership? How can the awareness of shame actually enhance our effectiveness at work? What does “wholehearted living” have to do with career success?
As it turns out, the leadership implications of Brene’s work are significant. Consider your own role, for example. Do you:
- Engage openly in difficult conversations rather than tiptoeing around them?
- Provide honest feedback, coming from a place of connection and growth?
- Acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers and are o.k. with that?
- Allow people to dare greatly - even though mistakes and failures may ensue?
And here’s a big one: Do you admit your own mistakes and failures? Even to those you lead?
In a group coaching session recently, a few of my clients were discussing failure, fear, and vulnerability. “I always thought admitting my failures would decrease others’ respect for me,” one courageous professional admitted. “When I shared my big flub-up last year though, I experienced an outpouring of support and a newfound level of respect because I was real. Now my team knows they can take risks – even if they mess up sometimes – because how else do you grow?”
Vulnerability isn’t letting it all hang out; rather, as Brene writes, it’s “sharing our feelings and experiences with people who have earned the right to hear them.” A few other nuggets to bring into your leadership:
- Be You. Whether your leadership style is charismatic joviality or quiet compassion, flow with your strengths. “Authenticity,” Brene shares, “is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”
- Quit Comparing. Seek mentors and role models, look for opportunities to grow, but don’t bother with comparison. We can all probably relate to Brene’s words here: “I can’t tell you how many times I’m feeling so good about myself and my life and my family, and then in a split second it’s gone because I consciously or unconsciously start comparing myself to other people.”
- Make It Meaningful, whatever your profession or role. “When we cultivate our gifts and share them with the world,” she confirms, “we create a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives.”
As a leader, be willing to dare greatly. Dare to take a stand. Dare to stand up for yourself. As Brene so eloquently writes, we all want to be brave.
We all want you to be brave, too.
Commit to daring greatly this week. With the support of your coach or trusted adviser, explore where you’ve been holding back and decide how you can now take a step forward.
Can you share a story with your team about a time when you were less than perfect? Apply for the promotion that self-doubt has kept you from? Admit that past mistakes do not define your future?
Don’t just think about daring greatly – take an action that puts you into the arena, knowing that you’ll make a difference and come out stronger.
Dr. Christi Hegstad coaches professionals who want to become strong, confident leaders that make a meaningful difference. Learn more about her coaching work at www.meaning-and-purpose.com, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MAPIncFan, and via Twitter at www.twitter.com/DrChristiCoach.
The Gifts of Imperfection (Hazelden, 2010) and Daring Greatly (Gotham, 2012) written by Dr. Brene Brown.