Wednesday, 24 July 2019
Vulnerability for IT & Digital Leaders: Why it’s time to take off your workplace armour
by Paul Murphy
When do you feel most vulnerable as a leader? If you’re like me, it’s when you:
Have to lay off employees…
Make a mistake…
Need to ask for feedback…
When navigating organisational change and transformation...
When you don’t “know it all”...
And in a bunch of other workplace scenarios, to be completely honest!
You may feel like you need to put up a poker face at these moments. After all, your team looks to you for strength and leadership, right?
Actually, showing a bit of vulnerability can help you earn the esteem of your colleagues and become a more trusted authority.
If you want to improve your leadership skills, then it’s time to embrace your weaknesses (aka opportunities) and tap into your emotional intelligence (EQ).
What Is EQ, And Where Does Vulnerability Come Into It?
According to Harvard theorist Howard Gardner, EQ refers to your ability to understand other people, what motivates them, and how to work cooperatively with them.
There are five major skills that make up EQ: self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.
All of these skills involve emotional exposure and vulnerability. They require accepting uncertainty and putting yourself at risk - showing others that you have feelings and shortcomings of your own. Doing this allows you to make real connections with others, which is necessary if you hope to gain the insights and respect needed to lead. Further, it empowers you to stand up for what’s right, even when doing so may be uncomfortable.
Researcher Brené Brown specialises in studying what vulnerability is, and its effects in interpersonal relationships.
She describes vulnerability as:
“The birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change… If you’ve created a work culture where vulnerability isn’t okay, you’ve also created a culture where innovation and creativity aren’t okay.”
How To Unlock Your Vulnerability
Clearly, being vulnerable is a key part of an IT & Digital manager’s EQ toolkit, especially in this era of fast-moving technological innovation. But how can you put it to use?
Admit what you don’t know, and ask for help when you need it
Employees look to their leaders for guidance when things are uncertain. But they can lose confidence in your authority if you seem to be bulldozing forward without knowing what you’re doing. In these cases, it’s best to take a pause and own up to your gaps in knowledge.
Not only does this help your colleagues and employees trust that you will be transparent, but it also gives them the opportunity to feel valuable. By admitting that you need help, you give everyone a chance to pull together and solve the problem by contributing their own skills and knowledge.
Take accountability when things go wrong
Even the best leaders make mistakes. What matters is taking responsibility for them and not just passing the buck. When managers step up and take accountability for their mistakes, employees can trust that they won’t be left to deal with the fallout on their own.
Brene Brown talks about the idea of accountability from corporate leaders, emphasising how much a simple sense of duty is appreciated:
“We pretend that what we do doesn't have an effect on people. We do that in our personal lives. We do that in corporate -- whether it's a bailout, an oil spill ... a recall. We pretend like what we're doing doesn't have a huge impact on other people. I would say to companies, this is not our first rodeo, people. We just need you to be authentic and real and say ... ‘We're sorry. We'll fix it.’"
Accept imperfection in yourself and others
Part of being accountable is accepting that you’re not perfect, and that no one else can be either. When your employees see that they don’t need to be flawless to gain success and respect in your workplace, they will begin to see their failures as opportunities for growth.
This is far preferable to the fearful, destructive mindset that views failure as disastrous and reflective of poor character. With that approach, it’s harder for both yourself and your team members to learn from mistakes and make improvements.
In order for you to be an effective leader who makes good decisions, you must be aware of what’s going on in your environment. This includes being aware of your employee’s feelings and struggles, as well as realising your own effect on employee morale and office dynamics. Gaining these insights can be difficult, as it often requires facing some uncomfortable truths.
Don’t avoid tough conversations
Brown’s research into vulnerability identified willingness to have difficult conversations as a common trait among top leaders:
“Imagine a leader who could pull a team together and say, ‘I’m not good at this, but I feel like there’s unspoken stuff happening around gender and race, and I want to talk about it.’”
Share the secret of vulnerability with your team
Vulnerability isn’t just a powerful tool for leaders. When embraced by other IT & digital professionals, it can become one of your organisation’s most powerful weapons.
If everyone on your team learns to become more vulnerable, it will enable more authentic communication, more responsibility, more understanding, and more willingness to take action when things get tough. It may seem counterintuitive, but the freeing power of vulnerability can actually make your employees feel stronger than ever.
Embracing Vulnerability Can Help You Reach New Heights In Your Career. So Can Ensure.
What else makes you feel vulnerable as a leader? Let me know in the comments of this post.
Our team at Ensure Recruitment can help connect your organisation with the biggest talents in the IT & digital world. If hiring great people for your team is a current focus for you, please feel free to get in touch here to chat about how we can help.