woman talking to her therapist

Open the Door to Vulnerability and Courage

Last week Emily complimented me in her blog post when she spoke of the struggles I have faced in the last year and my ability to persevere through them. (Thanks, Emily!) And she’s not wrong. I have been that way for as long as I can remember; not letting anything stop me or get in my way. My dad taught me to have determination and I am so grateful that he did. But that determination and perseverance go hand in hand with the ability to be vulnerable. And this is where I used to fall short, very short. It wasn’t until I joined the Horizon Point team that I learned it was okay to be vulnerable, to ask for help, and to let others handle the load when you can’t. And during my health struggles in the past year, they have helped carry the load, without hesitation. 

Vulnerability isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. It’s the ability to acknowledge when you can’t do it alone, when you made a mistake, or when you fell short. As Brene Brown puts it “(T)he definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our most accurate measure of courage.” 

I had to learn to be vulnerable, and here’s what I have learned:

  1. If you show vulnerability, others will follow. If leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable with their teams, it creates a culture of trust and in turn those employees will learn that vulnerability is acceptable, encouraged, and expected within the team. 
  2. Being vulnerable takes practice. It’s not easy to be vulnerable. As Brené Brown says, it takes courage to expose your fears, mistakes, and emotions to others. You don’t know how it will be received and you don’t know what others will think of you. But the more you do it, the easier it gets. Start small and work your way up to the big things if you need to. And sometimes it starts with being vulnerable with yourself. 
  3. How you respond to the vulnerability of others is make or break. As a leader, you need to encourage and accept the vulnerability of others. How you react to the vulnerability shown to you can build trust or destroy trust. Allow for mistakes and use them as learning opportunities. Encourage employees to seek help when they are overwhelmed, be someone that they can vent to if needed (without negative repercussions). Understand that they have emotions and while you may not understand or agree with those emotions, acknowledge them. 
  4. Vulnerability in leadership leads to better, more productive teams. By allowing and encouraging vulnerability and modeling vulnerability to your team, it creates a team that is psychologically safe, that is comfortable raising concerns, mistakes, and ideas, that has a growth mindset. And research shows that teams that are psychologically safe are the most productive teams you can have. 

I have a wonderful team at Horizon Point that I can be vulnerable and courageous with, that I can go to for help when I need it, can share ideas and concerns with without fear of repercussion, and that I can vent to when I’m having one of those days. And I know that they have by back, and in return, they know that I have theirs. 

How have you as a leader shown vulnerability and courage to your team? And how have you responded to the vulnerability shown to you? 


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Lorrie Coffey