Despite what most people believe, vulnerability is a sign of strength and if you doubt this then you may not properly understand what it means to be vulnerable.
When a leader shows vulnerability, they have accepted failure and progressed to a point where they can emotionally regulate their fear and sadness chemicals. Conversely, putting on a brave face merely masks fear and sadness, prohibiting individuals from getting to the crux of their problems. Whilst we are not suggesting that leaders should walk around sobbing because their budgie died or crying out in fear as the sales figures fall, it is important for leaders to acknowledge the way they feel in order to work effectively.
People often get confused between vulnerability and victim behaviour, with vulnerability being considered a negative trait or a sign of weakness. However, there are key differences between these and victim behaviour comes from a position of thinking that you are ‘less than’ other people. This may involve wanting other people to take over your leadership responsibilities because you feel useless or picked on by others. Therefore, leaders that exhibit victim behaviour may seek help and pity from others rather than helping themselves, thus limiting their ability to lead successfully and bringing a sense of negativity to office life. This can be detrimental to company morale.
So how do you distinguish between the two? The answer lies in what leaders expect people around them to do. When you are exhibiting vulnerability, you do not expect anyone else to do anything with these feelings, you are simply expressing how you feel without expecting anyone to save or attack you. This can facilitate an open work environment, positive relationships and effective emotional regulation for the leader, consequently allowing them to lead with strength. Alternatively, a victim mindset will focus on negativity, with leaders complaining extensively and failing to be proactive about key problems whilst expecting pity from others.
If you are reading this and realising that you exhibit victim behaviour, don’t worry; there are ways to get your leadership behaviour back on track. Here is what you can do to turn victim behaviour into vulnerability:
- Work on the emotional regulation of your sadness and fear chemicals
- When you are tempted to have a moan about something, ask yourself ‘what is my intention in doing this?’ If you want to talk something through with the intention of progressing forward, that is not victim behaviour. If you want to have a good old moan about things to make yourself feel better, save it for the pub.
- Begin to think about ways in which you can successfully support yourself. This can involve making direct and open communication with those around you.
- Train your mind to think in more empowering ways. When a negative thought enters your mind, ask yourself ‘what can I do about this?’ You will then start to consider what is in your power and what is outside of your control.
By becoming assertive, supportive and vulnerable you are giving permission to others to do the same, which will improve the overall work environment and ensure you are leading by example. The result will be an empowered and motivated team.
About the authors
Karen Meager and John McLachlan are the co-founders of Monkey Puzzle Training, two of only a handful of NLP Master Trainers in the UK and co-authors to Time Mastery; a number one best-selling book, and Real Leaders for the Real World; an IBA finalist.
At Monkey Puzzle Training, Karen, John and their team specialise in developing leaders and supporting them in their personal and professional growth. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life.