If you are leader in your organization, especially if you’re new in your role, you might think that vulnerability is the last trait you want to show the members of your team. Instead, you think that you need to be authoritative and take charge. In fact, you’ve decided to give the appearance of being as Teflon-like as possible.
Well, according Deb Fullerton, a partner with professional development firm PMA Philadelphia, that’s exactly what you shouldn’t do unless you want to alienate your team completely. In a recent post to PMA’s blog, Fullerton made the case that “vulnerability has a clear role to play in building trust with the people you are relying on to collaborate and problem solve with you on a daily basis.” No one expects you to have the answer to every question or the solution to every problem.
Instead, team members want to work with leaders who value the input of others and openly acknowledge their own shortcomings. According to Fullerton, “a willingness to be truly honest about not knowing some things or about not having been in certain situations before can bridge gaps immediately and bring people onto your side.” Here are four questions she recommends asking to gauge your willingness to be vulnerable:
- Have you sincerely apologized recently for a misstep that impacted someone else in the recent past?
- Have you recently admitted to the group that you were unclear about how to proceed on something?
- Have you personally asked for help from a direct report because they had knowledge or experience that you didn't?
- Have you allowed yourself a change of opinion based on the wise words of your colleagues or staff?
If you didn’t respond positively to at least one of these questions, Fullerton believes there’s a missed opportunity for building trust and credibility with your team. She says that her “own growth as a leader has been more impacted by learning to be more vulnerable than any one other area.”
Certainly as a leader, you’re on alert for those weaknesses or threats that make your organization vulnerable, but at the same time, remember that your own ability to build unity by being less guarded could save the day.