John Couris: 5 ways vulnerability can make you a stronger leader

It's no wonder that professor-researcher Brené Brown's Ted Talk "The Power of Vulnerability" has been viewed by more than 41 million people, making it one of the five most popular talks in the history of the form. Her framing of what it means to be vulnerable — willing to embrace uncertainty, take risks and expose oneself emotionally — and the impact it can have on our lives is incredibly powerful.

However, with such a focus in today's world on curating the perfect Instagram story or Facebook feed, it's harder than ever to be open about what's really going on in our lives. While nothing is perfect, it seems that we feel the need to paint a picture of perfection. And so, I think it's more important than ever to show vulnerability and be willing to admit our flaws and imperfections.

While I have been integrating vulnerability into my leadership practice for years, the concept of vulnerability has been viewed by many in the industry as a weakness. This negative connotation has often prevented folks in leadership roles from revealing their true selves. So when I talk to others about this trait, I position it as "practicing vulnerability," because I think we have to make a conscious effort to show others who we are.

For me, practicing vulnerability is not only critical to who I am outside the office, but guides how I lead every day. If I walk into my office each morning and ask my team how we are going to continue to push boundaries in innovation, productivity, patient care and quality, and I haven't looked in the mirror and asked that of myself first, I am falling down on the job.

Being vulnerable requires the courage to take a 360-degree inventory of yourself to decide what work you need to do to not only be your most effective and productive, but to also determine how your actions can inspire others.

You must ask yourself the hard questions:

  • What assumptions do I need to challenge — about myself, about my industry, about my organization?
  • What risks can I take, and how can I manage those risks effectively?
  • What skills do I need to harness to get the job done, and what am I doing to prevent that from happening?
  • Am I being honest with myself and with others?
  • What can I share of myself with my team?

You need to put the answers to those questions into action, allowing you to perform at the highest level possible. You'll be in tune with what you need to be both effective and innovative. At the same time, you'll share with others. You'll reveal a willingness to be open, demonstrate your collaborative nature, and project a demeanor that is relatable and honest. You also show everyone that you walk the walk and talk the talk — skills that are invaluable no matter what challenges your company faces.

Here are five tips on how vulnerability allows you to lead, manage, and inspire your team more effectively:

  1. Being vulnerable sets an example of honesty and trust. When you open up about your feelings, concerns and goals, you provide a safe space for others to do the same.
  2. Being vulnerable opens up the lane for others to provide feedback and ideas. When you are vulnerable, you admit that you don't have all the answers give space for other folks to share ideas and make recommendations. Simply put, you empower others.
  3. Being vulnerable promotes transparency between you and your team, and provides for a more stress-free and productive work environment. No one has to guess at expectations. It also sets a field for collaboration and teamwork because everything is out in the open and team members can work toward common goals.
  4. Being vulnerable makes you relatable and approachable. Who doesn't want an accessible manager? Team members are much more likely to stay with an organization if they have a favorable opinion of their team leader. They are also more likely to work harder and be more productive under the direction of someone they admire and respect.
  5. Finally, being vulnerable demonstrates that it's ok for others to be authentically themselves — that you meet them where they live and respect them for who they are.

Through vulnerability, I have been able to create a sense of relatability and accessibility among my team and build bonds of trust and loyalty. Being perfect does not equate to being successful. Leaders who remain open and vulnerable, admit mistakes and are open and honest about their imperfections will garner much more than those who don't.

John Couris is the President and CEO of Tampa General Hospital. You can connect with John at his website changewithcouris.com or via LinkedIn.

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