I should have known when Steve Woodruff, my #LeadershipChat partner in crime, suggested the topic of vulnerability for tomorrow night’s chat that I would find myself over the past week feeling quite, unexpectedly, vulnerable.
I think there are two kinds of vulnerability. The first – the kind I experienced - is a negative form that comes from fear.
Like all transplant patients I have to take daily immunosuppressive medications to prevent my body from rejecting my donor’s kidney. Because of this I am more vulnerable to infections, and this tends to make me more fearful at this time of year, especially when I begin to spread myself too thin. Unfortunately, spreading myself thin has become a subconscious addiction and true acrobatic feat lately; thus I ended up getting sick.
I also ended up with a computer that seemed to sense my need to slow down and just stopped working for two days. I couldn’t get any real work done and am still thick in the process of trying to reconnect everything.
So, I’ve been very attuned to some of the emotions associated with being vulnerable this week:
- Fear (of ramifications)
- Guilt (“Who am I letting down because I’m getting behind?”)
- Blame (“If I had planned better I would have seen this coming and adjusted appropriately”)
- Anger (I can’t get anything done!)
- Crabbiness – I know this isn’t technically an emotion, but since I’m feeling very crabby please humor me.
The second kind of vulnerability - the kind of uniquely memorable leaders – is the positive sort borne of love.
“What?” you ask, “she’s talking love again this week?” Yes, I have no choice but to talk love again this week. Because I think the kind of vulnerability that characterizes great leaders is derived from the love they have for their vision, for the organization, for the way in which their product or service helps others, and for the community of people they have working with them to accomplish great deeds.
For can there be another reason strong enough to compel a leader to allow themself, maybe even encourage themself, to be vulnerable? To be “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded or hurt,” and “open to temptation or persuasion” as the definition states?
Not that I enjoy using the process of elimination but it seems a useful tool in this case. Take for example greed. Greed is a strong enough reason to compel leaders to take certain actions – but to expose themselfand their career willingly with the possiblity of serious ramifications, perhaps strategic, financial, relational or other?
What about hate? Would it compel a leader to be vulnerable? Arrogance? What about fear itself?
I couldn’t come up with another reason that seemed to make any sense as to why someone would open themselfup like that – willingly – withfaith that there will be a rich return for everyone involved.
What I did find as I was researching emotions was this quote by Ed Welch in his post Strong Emotions; Extreme Confidence, “Emotions portray what is happening in our hearts.”
Thus my belief that the ability to open yourself up, the strength to be exposed at the core of yourself, must emerge from the heart. Of course, there must also be courage – which is why last week’s #LeadershipChat topic and this week’s go hand in hand.
I wrote a post a few months ago that asked, “Are the Best Leaders the Most Vulnerable?” I’d like to end with a few sentences from that post that solidify how I’m feeling as I write this now…
“When I think about Moses, Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. I think about the word “love.” I think about people who loved and embraced their followers and their communities…They let their enthusiasm for their causes - which literally means the spirit of god within – shine through without any hesitation, even when they were most vulnerable.”
Can we, as leaders, aspire to such acts of courage…? I know the leaders I most respect and find myself inspired by are the ones who are doing just that. How about you? Please share…
And please join Steve and I for #LeadershipChat tomorrow night, November 9th, at 8:00 pm Eastern Time when we’ll discuss vulnerability in leadership.
If this chat is anything like the last few you won’t want to miss it!
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Photo is Heart in Hands Belt Buckle by Lonesome Road Studio.