I was watching a financial show on TV recently and heard a commentator discuss a study that showed if you’d invested $1 in the stock market roughly 50 years ago, it would be worth a bit more that $13 today. Your return would have been higher than inflation.
But if you’d invested that same $1 and taken your money out every time you got skittesh about the market, you’d only have $0.03 to show for it today! Why? Because even though you may have avoided the downfalls, you would have missed the huge gains as well.
And therein lies the essential truth about vulnerability.
Vulnerability means there is a chance we will get hurt: financially, emotionally, psychologically, physically. No one wants to get hurt.
Sometimes, in anticipation of being in a vulnerable position, we “cover up” and protect ourselves. We pull out of the market, out of the launch, out of the deal, or out of a relationship…
But vulnerability also means that we have the opportunity to soar in ways that we will never soar if we do not put ourselves out there and take a chance.
Being vulnerable means being exposed…to the elements, to attack, to others’ opinions, to great failure and also to life-altering success.
I believe great leaders, like Andrew Jackson pictured here, are prepared to be vulnerable knowing they have so much to gain. I believe that only by moving through our fears and allowing ourselves to be truly vulnerable do we open ourselves up to the possibility of greatness.
Let’s look at 3 reasons I think vulnerability is crucial to great leadership:
1. I believe great leaders know that the cause they serve is so much greater than themself. Just by recognizing this makes you vulnerable. Why?
- Because you’re acknowledging that there is so much at stake
- Because a “cause greater than yourself” will likely have many people opposed to that cause in the same way you ardently support it - be they competitors, battlefield enemies, political opponents or the like
Great leaders accept this and fight for their cause anyway. I’m thinking about Lincoln as I write this; leading with the country’s future at risk. There was so much to lose by fighting, and yet – with his cause being “the rebirth of a nation” – there was so much more to gain.
2. You all know how strongly I believe in my core that great leadership starts with clear, compelling vision. When you passionately “own it” and lead toward it, that vision makes you vulnerable to attack from others who don’t share it and won’t support it.
Your commitment to bring your vision to fruition makes you vulnerable, at the same time creating an opportunity for spectacular success for everyone involved.
3. I think being vulnerable is part of our humanity, and that great leaders are willing to let others see them as they truly are. Allowing your team to see and appreciate the emotions you are experiencing as you choose to take on risk, or as you move past prior failures to a bold new vision, takes courage.
I believe when a leader shows their humanity, their basic, human vulnerability, it creates a much tighter, more trusting team.
It’s important to note that I don’t, in any way, equate vulnerability with weakness. I would never advocate a weak position on the battlefield or suggest to a leader that s/he should look weak in any way. Quite the opposite, strength of character and position are critical to balance vulnerability.
What do you think? Is vulnerability a signal to retreat, or an opportunity to grow? Please share in the comments!
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Photo of Andrew Jackson by dbking.