Vulnerability feels like fear. It can act like defensiveness. In her book “The Message of Emotions” Karla McLaren explains that vulnerability signals that something about our self image- our beliefs, values, or perspective-is being challenged. The question to ask is whether we would benefit from accepting the new information. Essentially, our ego is being asked to consider changing.
Our ego does not take this lightly. One of the reasons managing conflict and giving feedback for improvement is so challenging for leaders is that we are asking someone-often including ourselves-to accept that they are not exactly who they thought they were. We are asking them to have the courage to change their self-iimage. If we can be as factual and objective as possible while doing it, we can allow them to “save face” –respect their self-image as they consider changing it. Empathy and gentleness helps. Ultimately the question we are asking is: Do they have the humility, resilience, and thoughtfulness to reflect on this new information and adjust who they are to accept it?
Vulnerability asks us to have the courage to stare down the message we are receiving and ask ourselves “Is this true, and if so, what do I want to do with it?” Ultimately, it is an opportunity to let go of our ego and continue to grow and learn.
Do you have the courage to be vulnerable? If you do, you will grow as a leader and have more empathy for others as they do the same.