The question might sound weird, however the underlying challenge is very real for most people.
According to Brené Brown, a shame researcher who has spent the last sixteen years studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy, there is something called a vulnerability paradox: “It’s the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I want you to see in me.” We live in a society where we fear of being ordinary yet we try to fit in.
Last week I have attended a 3 day, intensive course, the Sage Business School, where we had to state our strategic objective we wanted to achieve. Mine was clear…to be a certified human. What did I mean by that?
Vulnerability, I used to associate it with being weak. Throughout my life, I’ve been taught that being invulnerable is a virtue preferred by many as a sign of strength. After all, who wants to get hurt or be exposed to any unpredictable things that happen in life? I can assure you, very few of us.
In all honesty, not only was I vulnerable regardless of how hard I tried not to be, but I approached vulnerability with a twisted mindset. That was until I attended the seminar. Here is the thing, vulnerability did make me more exposed to pain, disappointment and heartbreak. However, if I didn’t allow myself to be vulnerable, I couldn’t experience the joy of life at the same time. I couldn’t be my authentic self and therefore I couldn’t be human, because to be human is to be flawed.
When we pretend to be perfect, we engage in behaviours that are often inconsistent with who we want to be and others can feel it. That is one of the main challenges in personal and leadership development as well. If we always project an image, how can we gain trust and build relationships? If we are not honest, how do we get real feedback that could help us grow? What happens if we demand honesty and transparency from others, but we are not willing to share ours?
Cultural intelligence is about understanding ourselves first then others. The issue is that the topic is often approached from the wrong angle. Pointing out the statistically average, national differences just widens the gap instead of building a common ground. They are useful to learn about what people are used in an environment and the “mask” they need to wear in order to fit in, nothing more.
Intelligent global leadership is about being self-aware and brave enough to be vulnerable so others can get to know and trust you. If we stop spending an extreme amount of energy to pretend to be someone else depending on the situation or trying to conform to the rules set by previous generations, we can use all of that energy to focus on our task ahead and connect with people.
Vulnerability is a leadership skill, not a weakness. It can engender trust and loyalty in leaders from those who follow them. Confidence in business — if not life in general — is an important skill. No business can be successful without a confident leader. Being able to admit and share times of weakness, even in a public setting, is a way for leaders to earn trust from those they lead. Showing weakness and not hiding from imperfection lets others know that you as a leader are human.
Remember: it’s easy to project confidence. Most people expect that from leaders and are conditioned to screen for leaders who seem to be overly confident. It’s far more difficult — and gutsy — to show vulnerability or weakness. That is real confidence. Cultural intelligence is about breaking down barriers within and between people. It is not always pleasant and it is a never ending journey, but that is the foundation of sustainable personal and leadership development.
As John Mattone, the #1 Authority on Intelligent Leadership and the World’s Top Executive Coach, said:
On a personal note, I did get the certificate at the end and I keep it near my desk to remind me, when it gets uncomfortable, I just have to push through, that is when magic happens…
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