Reconciling vulnerability, leadership and courage
It requires courage to be vulnerable. A vulnerable leader is a strong leader, if he or she chooses courage.
The age old debate is whether leaders are born or made. Well, actually, it’s probably not much of a debate any more, I think it is pretty accepted that it is a mixture of both. There is a certain personality mix that gives some people a head start on the leadership path. However, the qualities, capacity and design of a leader are made, developed and forged. Furthermore this would be by far the more significant factor to whether someone is a leader or not, well above personality, having the right start in life or any other inherent factor.
In the process of being formed as a leader, it is my conviction there is a moment in which the true leader is born. Ok Steve what are you saying? I thought you said leaders are not primarily born. No, that’s right, but there are moments as we are developing that help birth the leader in us.
One of the most determining factors are the moments that require our courage.
Think about it. What are we all looking for in a crisis, nationally, corporately, privately? We are looking for someone to step up and make that courageous decision and that bold statement.
I wonder when there is an absence of clear direction in a crisis it is because the leader in the situation has been positioned above his or her current courage level.
To lead well and to lead strong we need courage to make the right decision, confront the situation, to lead it through with confidence.
It requires courage to be vulnerable. A vulnerable leader is a strong leader, if he or she chooses courage. Vulnerability is not a weakness, vulnerability is a great human attribute. Vulnerability is what we feel when we are outside our comfort zone, it is what we feel when needing to interact with another person at a meaningful level, its what we feel when doing something for the first time, it is what we feel when we are faced with something seemingly out of our depth. All of these are potentially great moments in life. In fact if you are not ever facing any of these situations or something similar then you are probably living life way too conservatively and way below your potential.
What a leader does is he or she is prepared to be in vulnerable situations and take courage to respond to them well.
The greater the level of your responsibility, the greater is the level of your vulnerability. The more expansive your leadership, the more risk there is in your vulnerability. So with great vulnerability comes the need to find great courage. The big temptation we face is the temptation to find a place of safety in our vulnerability. So we procrastinate, we avoid confrontation, we retreat to the safe decision, we become conservative when others are trying to find their strength from your courage.
I have found that some of my greatest leadership lessons and personal growth have come in the most difficult moments. When your back is against the wall and everything is breaking out against you, you have no choice but to stay and show courage or retreat completely.
What can be more difficult, but equally important in the growth of our leadership, is the everyday vulnerabilities we experience, where the choice is not as simple as stand and fight or retreat. The option to put it off, delegate it out, or avoid thinking about it. All of which can be valid options in certain situations, but if we live according to avoidance too long, our courage is not being fuelled for our future leadership need.
Your courage will determine your leadership impact, your ability to be vulnerable, and then show daring and resilience is where a leader is born.
Don’t fear your vulnerability – embrace it with courage, let the leader in you be born again!