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Another Leadership Nonsense - Vulnerability

Yesterday I made a video (below) about the words that confuse and harm leaders but this one takes the cake. Once again, we throw words around without thinking of their meaning or consequences so, let's look at what vulnerability means and tell me if this is what you really want from your leaders:

"Vulnerability refers to "the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally." 

Is this what we want from leaders? 

Leaders are terrified of this word and rightfully if you ask me. First of all, organisations don't clarify what they mean when asking their leaders to be vulnerable. Then the question is, vulnerable with whom? With my coach 1:1, with my team or in front of the whole organisation? What does it look like? In what situation do I need to be vulnerable? What do I need to share? Do I share that I have no idea what to do? How will that impact the team? Do I lose face or my reputation? Will that be used againts me(because we cannot control others not to do that)? Do I share that my wife/husband left me? That my private life is a mess? That I lost a business and it was my fault? That I cannot sleep at night and it is impacting me? 

What do we want leaders to share under the umbrella of the vulnerability agenda and how will that impact them? This is what we should be looking at before we even start mentioning the word. 

I would never tell leaders to be vulnerable because there is too much at stake and too many variables that one cannot control. I would say my ex-CEO had his moments of vulnerability and I loved it. When he admitted during COVID-19 that he had no clue what was next. When he talked about that dreaded moment he had to send out an email ordering 5000+ hotels to shut down. He could afford to be vulnerable because that guy has a high level of self-confidence, and self-esteem, and was backed by the board and shareholders that gave him security. He is highly respected within the company and globally. He was not at risk of losing face, his prestige, or his job nor did he care about any of these. 

So it seems to me that the ability to be vulnerable has some prerequisites and when those are not fulfilled it is irresponsible to ask leaders to be vulnerable. Imagine a person who lacks confidence, feels crap about him/herself, has poor or no reputation, and that title is what validates him/her as a person and now you ask this to be risked. What about countries where such behaviour culturally is unacceptable? Or when the person knows that such act/information will be used against him/her at some point? Do you still think the vulnerability agenda is helpful? 

People know how and when to be vulnerable but that depends on them and the environment. When you force a person to be exposed to the possibility of being attacked, you must make sure that it won't be to their detriment. But as a corporation or corporate trainer you cannot! All you can do is deliver this dangerous message, train them on the positive aspects of vulnerability in leadership even give them a few good examples but then you are leaving them to themselves. This is highly irresponsible if you ask me. It can lead to career suicide if you ask me. 

We "all" have the ability to be vulnerable but we will choose the people, the environment, and the event to do that. We intuitively know when and who is safe to do this with. Forcing us to expose ourselves to an unsafe environment will start the threat signal in our brains. Is that what you really want for your leaders? 

PS: Once again HR, please protect your people from gurus! 

If you want more tips on what to do and not to do with your workforce here it is:

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