Last week Cindy texted me asking me what vulnerability means to me. Earlier that day I had posted:
Leadership at any level requires a certain amount of transparency, therein is vulnerability. But, I ponder the type of vulnerability we are sharing.
Vulnerability of Need
Ill-equipped to solve everything on their own, leaders need maintain a level of public forum around their plans and problems. This will allow community to foster and people to add value that drives towards the end-goal. Here’s my quick try at displaying it in logic:
Vulnerability of need (Vn):
X= Goal, Y= Your hard work/resources, Z= Others hard work/resources
X = Y+Z
Whether you are Elon Musk trying to make transportation between LA & SF easier or President Barack Obama trying to get Americans covered. This trait seems to be common amongst the most successful entrepreneurs and businesspeople- the ability to “do what it takes,” “display grit,” and to “rally people around issues.” This is resource allocation. It’s economics. You could graph it.
All of the above is leadership related to adversity and pressing forwards. You are a hero for tackling these issues.
What about another type of vulnerability? What about emotional vulnerability– your struggles today, in leadership?
Leadership exists only for a moment in the scope of our human experience and individual experiences on earth. Even the CEO of Unilever heads home to his wife and children, and the troubles of normal life. The problems and thoughts of normal life don’t seem to have a forum for conversation and connection. If we’re so focused on ‘faking it till we make it’ or ‘being the person we want to become,’ and Social Media is the audience that gets us there, then everything we post to social is a handpicked version of reality or an entirely fabricated idea meant to promote an image.
It’s important that we recognize these are issues that matter. It’s important for the public to recognize their humanity and to recognize the humanity of leaders. Making these conversations more public may be a road to that, but then what comes first the chicken or the egg. The public forum is a dangerous thing to speak to ones weaknesses or struggles particularly when your company is traded in the public market or looking to take on new capital.
In response to Cindy: the vulnerability I want to share more of, perhaps first with closed groups of friends, is one that engages conversations of love, hope, and humanity. In doing so I hope to speak more forward to failure, struggle, and unrest. I have already started privately recounting my experiences. I would be overjoyed to find synergy among my friend circles and to learn that other people in my shoes are faced with similar struggles. I would love to someday share this with future generations so that they might understand my mistakes and not have to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps this is someday the seed for a larger forum on the topic–on that lends itself to allowing more people in leadership to speak openly on their experiences.
A more open conversation on that level will surely appeal to new classes and groups of people, opening up the diversity and participation of the C-Suite, should they allow it. Lest, by conversation we find power. My own ability to hold such conversations in vulnerability is an experiment to better understand myself and to allow others to have a better understanding of me.