If we were to rank our most coveted traits, I’m betting vulnerability wouldn’t be among them. There’s a reason our brains are contained in a skull and our hearts are protected by layers of muscle and bone. Vulnerability – being susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm – isn’t something we’re hardwired to embrace. Just ask those among us who lead challenger brands, advertising agencies, design firms, and media companies. Vulnerability is not our preference. But it should be, and for one incredibly important reason. You can’t build a great company culture without vulnerability. And without a rock-solid company culture, you will never get where it is you want to go.
It’s not weakness. It’s leadership.
Of all the qualities that make for a great leader, vulnerability has to be the hardest. Even if you buy into why being vulnerable is important and valuable to your company’s big picture, letting down your guard, taking off your armor, and allowing yourself to be completely open with those you’re leading still flies in the face of human nature. That’s why, for generations, vulnerability has implied weakness, and who wants to be weak?
In large part due to the work of Dr. Brené Brown, we are changing the way we look at vulnerability. We are starting to see that while, yes, stripping off a layer of protection can be seen as weakness, it can also be seen as the ultimate sign of authenticity and trust. It’s not a switch you can just flip on.