Have you ever put yourself in a position of vulnerability, then conquered your fears to emerge as a stronger, more empowered version of you? If not, why not? It can be a transformative tool, which will help you discover more about yourself and how you can develop strategies to cope with the slings and arrows that life throws at you.
I was sat indulging in a bit of “me time” in a café and thought I’d fight the urge to look at my phone and, instead, pick up a book from its inviting mini lending-library.
As I thumbed through a small volume, I read about a woman in her 50s who’d experienced corporate “burn-out” and left her job. After speaking to a confidence coach, she realised she was blaming everyone else for her disappointments in life and not taking responsibility for them herself. So, she set a goal to try to find some “inner peace, rediscover the simple joy and pleasure in life and re-set my hope button”.
As part of this process, she took a giant leap into the unknown and tried her hand at kayaking; consciously exposing herself to risk. The journey from vulnerability to competency involved a steep – and slow – learning curve. But part of the joy was “paddling along” at her own pace, and not trying to get there “as quickly as possible” and missing half the pleasure of the journey, which is where she had been 12 months’ earlier.
She said, “I feel vulnerable on the water… by being open to this vulnerability, I have found that I connect with my fellow kayakers. The minute anyone needs help, the collective rallying to come to their aid feels fantastically protective and reassuring.”
Perhaps all managers and leaders should go on a kayaking course, I hear you cry! It might make them more considerate and improve their emotional intelligence.
Vulnerability is one of the Eight Inclusive BehavioursSM that underpin the foundations of Diversity and Inclusion and which we are sharing through our #InclusionInsights podcasts, blogs and discussions. It, of course, complements listening, which is another of the inclusive behaviours that we are homing in on this month.
My proposition is that vulnerability makes you listen to your inner-self and discover new aspects of your personality that you may have papered-over before.
“A leader who expresses vulnerability is someone who does not feel compelled to be the first to answer or come up with an idea,” says psychologist and resilience coach Dr Jodie Lowinger.
“Being vulnerable as a leader involves a change in mindset that enables you to see through the eyes of the people you lead,” she continues.
Her comments contend that listening to others is an essential skill for leaders. Listening, like vulnerability, should never be seen as a weakness, but a strength. Vulnerability is the feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.
We’ve come full circle to the experience of our novice kayaker. Later in her tale, she shares the benefits she reaped from her mission.
“I now look at the world with fresh eyes… I have also found that my appetite for self-knowledge and understanding has made me want to read more,” she said.
“But my biggest realisation is quite simply that it’s my life, my responsibility, my choices, so embrace it and accept the mistakes. Learn with good grace and go forward with hope and positivity.”
On that note, I’d like to share that I’m trying something new, placing myself in a position of vulnerability and having to listen to others.
I’m taking up golf with a group of girlfriends… it may not have the danger element of kayaking, but I’m certainly up against some very competitive women, so my vulnerability nerve is quivering. Be assured that I’m going to be listening very carefully to the coach!