“Leadership is much more a condition of the heart than a set of things to do”. So says Max De Pree, former CEO of Herman Miller. I couldn’t agree more.
Sometimes in our ‘professional’ capacity we can work hard to show others that we have it all together. This can have the unintended effect of isolating those around us because what we’re really saying is “no weakness here”. Good luck achieving high performance if that’s the golden rule!
So what does vulnerability have to do with wise leadership, and how can we practice modelling it? Let’s look at 3 simple things you can do to develop engagement with others around your own vulnerabilities.
Look for things about you that you struggle with, are unsure about or would like to improve. If we look, we can all find things about our situation that we feel unsure of. If we ask around we find that people have opinions on what our strengths are, and if we probe a little deeper, we may find the same people – colleagues, partners, children, friends – can offer some opinions about what we could get better at. Find one or two that really resonate with you (you think they’re right AND you think it’s worth looking at). Spend some time considering what you want to things to be like in that area. If you’re familiar with a strengths-based approach, then consider which character strengths you could apply to improve this area of your life.
Look for opportunities to share your vulnerability. Your team will respond to your ability to show them that you’re aware of your shortcomings and interested in dealing with them. Talk to people about this area of your growth, share it freely with others and seek their feedback about how to improve. Here are some examples:
“I’ve been noticing I’m not all that good at listening. I imagine that’s been tough for you, and I’d like your help in developing my ability to listen.”
“I’m really struggling with being as responsive to my team as I need to be, and I’d appreciate some guidance from you.”
“I find I become so task-focused sometimes that I don’t have time to make sure you have the support you all need. I’d like to hear from you about what support you think the team needs.”
Create opportunities to check in with others on your progress. Having an area of vulnerability on the table means that we can be explicit about checking in with others on our progress: “I mentioned to you a few weeks ago that I noticed I could work on my ability to… How am I going with that do you think? Have you noticed progress?”
What we are really doing here is being accountable for the area we have identified, demonstrating our willingness to follow through and improve in this area, and demonstrating that we are open to feedback from others.
Stay tuned for more simple ideas to practice creating the ‘conditions of the heart’ for wise, engaging leadership.
Contact me for more simple skills to get you leading with wisdom.