Dear Evolving Leader,

I begin this letter with the recognition that there’s no such thing as a completely developed leader. Each of us who are seeking to grow, develop and advance needs to be continuously evolving. We are quite literally, a work in progress.

You may be asking yourself why you’re getting this on Thursday rather than Tuesday. The answer is because this is a really challenging topic for me to write about and I’ve re-written this letter several times.

Throughout my career, one of my biggest struggles has been in the relationship between confidence/strength and the ability to be vulnerable. How does the ability to resist and withstand connect with the ability to be open and susceptible? In my mind, this was about the choice of either/or rather than and.

There are areas of our evolution that are easier than others. Some take more time and some less. For me, the balance between strength and vulnerability has been a continual work in progress. These two don’t seem to naturally go together and there are times when I feel like they contradict each other.

All too often, we as leaders find ourselves unnecessarily guarded. Afraid to be real or raw. Hesitant to reveal a personal perspective in order to not compromise the professionalism for which we’re known. Recognizing that there are many times when we have better questions than we have answers.

While there’s a certain protection in not revealing our vulnerabilities, the price that’s paid is potentially becoming unrelatable as a leader. Leadership is about people and it’s about influence. As such, there’s no advantage to being unrelatable to the people we lead.

There’s a very thin line between being relatable and unrelatable. My experience has shown me firsthand that the line is labeled vulnerability.

Vulnerability isn’t based on weakness, it’s based on awareness. Awareness of our strengths, limitations and potential blind spots. Areas where we’re the catalyst for advancement and where we’re the roadblock to progression. Vulnerability is what opens the door to new conversations and new ideas. It’s at the core of innovation and re-invention. On so many occasions, vulnerability means standing in a place that’s necessary even when it’s not comfortable.

So why does vulnerability create connected leaders? Because it’s their source of confidence rather than contradiction. Their ability to withstand is based on their awareness and openness to understand themselves, others and the situations they face. They’re the first to admit their successes and failures. They openly share the experiences that have shaped who they are and they’re willing to say, “I don’t know,” … which is followed quickly by, “but I’ll find out.”

In a world that seems to have no filters, engaging in the conversation creates its own unique vulnerability. I don’t need to be vulnerable because it’s trending or socially driven. For me, my growth in this area is about one thing: Being relatable and valued as a person and a professional to the people with whom I’m connected. 

This is the space of confidence and strength driven by a continual evolution and achieved by a willingness to be open and aware.

In this space, I have come to value what it means to be an evolving leader and I hope that this letter contributes to your progression as well.

Sincerely,

Brent

#Thoughtstarter

What does vulnerability mean to you? Where have you been willing to be vulnerable and built your confidence at the same time? Let me know in the comments.

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