Our ability to become brave leaders cannot exceed our ability to be vulnerable. Studies have shown that the true obstacle to brave leadership is the way in which we respond to our fears.
In other words, we cannot become brave leaders as long as our relationship with fear is hindered by our armour – which is made up of all the thoughts, emotions and behaviour we use to protect ourselves when we are not willing to face our vulnerable side.
Within any organisation, when the dominant culture requires us to wear armour to protect ourselves from who we really are, we cannot be expected to be sincere or innovative. The reason for this is self-explanatory: you cannot grow or contribute fully from behind a heavy suit of armour.
To really get in touch with your vulnerability, you must be willing to take off your armour. In fact, vulnerability can be defined as the emotion we feel in times of uncertainty, risk, and explosive emotion. Vulnerability has nothing to do with winning or losing: it is having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.
Being aware of our vulnerability means learning to deal with this tricky emotion, and understanding how to guide our thoughts and behaviour in a way that is in-keeping with our values and allows us to live with integrity. Avoiding vulnerability means letting ourselves be guided by fear, which almost always leads to painful failure.
Moving towards vulnerability means embracing every situation which makes us feel uncertain and exposed, such as having an important conversation, or asking for feedback on our work.
For vulnerability to develop within any organisation, there must be clear limits and psychological security. Psychological security makes it possible to give difficult feedback and have challenging conversations without beating around the bush, because in environments where people feel psychologically secure, they are not judged when they make mistakes. The components which stand in the way of psychological security in teams and work groups are in fact judgement, unsolicited advice, interruption and sharing outside team meetings.