“Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown is a book about vulnerability. Vulnerability becomes the thing that “sets us free” to be better leaders, parents, friends, lovers.
I am a sucker for books written by those who have researched their subject, and Dr. Brown has researched shame and vulnerability extensively. These topics formed the basis of her two most popular books and two very well-viewed TED talks. This book is actually better than the TED talk because she can give very meaningful and thorough examples of what it means to be vulnerable, and the impact that not being vulnerable has on us in all aspects of our lives.
I recently joined my leadership team from one of my areas of responsibility for a strategic planning session and offsite. This really was a “retreat” for us, as I only recently joined the team and haven’t had the proper time to just “be” with them. So we spent a big part of our time on developing our relationships as a team and on some team building and leadership development work. Much of our work was based on the great book “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. If you have read the book, you know that the first thing a team must have among its members is trust. Dr. Brown does a great job of showing the causal linkage between being vulnerable and building trust among your team. Our facilitator (and author, and friend), DJ Allen said it succinctly, “Have the courage to be you.”
But vulnerability is easier said than done; I know this for sure. I have had a hard time opening up to those around me about things I need help with, or acting like myself around my teams, or just being honest about my fears. So we went through some exercises during our retreat that allowed us all to open up. The key was to set a safe environment, and for the leaders in the room (including me) to show vulnerability first as role models.
The next challenge for me is going to be maintaining this attitude, and carrying it forward to the other groups I work with and interact with. It is definitely a habit that still needs to form more. But I become more convinced every day that the courage to step out and be vulnerable is the best thing a leader can do to ensure a trusting, productive team that maintains its positive energy in the face of all the challenges that can keep a team from reaching its potential. Dr. Brown would go further, saying the ability to be vulnerable is the absolute foundation to everything we can succeed in as a human. I agree, and think we all need to be practicing vulnerability with each other.