The Paradox of Trust, Vulnerability and Leadership
Editor’s Note: This post is part of the series “Return on Trust,” a weeklong effort provided by some very special invited guests. Be sure to keep track of the series here and check out our daily e-mail newsletter. Don’t subscribe? Sign up.
We usually think of great leaders as strong, unflappable, all-knowing, all-confident and ready to forge ahead. They have all the answers, they know where they are going, and we trust them without doubt and question.
Wrong! Great leaders are strong but don’t hide all their emotions. They know a lot but not everything, they are confident but not arrogant and they are ready to forge ahead – with the help of their team’s insights and inputs. They want to be challenged and they want hidden assumptions brought to light and questioned.
One of the gifts of the 21st Century is the realization that real leadership is a paradox of trust and vulnerability. Last year, I was privileged to lead a discussion with John Hagel, Saul Kaplan and Mike Waite on this very topic.
Humans tend to model the behavior they see. When leaders appear to be in control, know everything, never doubt, or never ask for help or input, employees think they have to do the same. The behavior they see and deem as acceptable is to be strong, not question, never be wrong, and always know. The opposite behavior is a sign of weakness and is unacceptable.
Humans tend to model the behavior they see. When leaders appear to be in control, know everything, never doubt, or never ask for help or input, employees think they have to do the same.
Leadership is a fine line between the confidence and competence to earn and keep trust and the hubris and perfection that loses trust.
When leaders show their vulnerability, it gives those around them the freedom to do so as well. Asking for input or help lets employees know you
- Are willing to admit you don’t know everything
- Want diverse and opposing opinions
- Value other’s experience and expertise
- Want to learn and discover
When employees feel they can offer insight and contribute, it makes them feel like they matter. By helping, providing information, and discovering insights, we feel needed and valuable. These traits forge better relationships, which build trust.
Leadership is a fine line between the confidence and competence to earn and keep trust
Many people feel this ‘soft-stuff’ like trust takes up a lot of time and energy that can be directed towards getting work done. But when we don’t trust, we use up a lot of energy to keep our guards up, check and verify. What if we trusted and allocated all that ‘preserving the guard’ time and energy into getting things done and making an impact?
So, while it is paradoxical, to be a great leader, one must be willing to be vulnerable, to risk being wrong, and to let people in so that they can too. The result? Trust, and a stronger, growing organization.
Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up HERE and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!
Copyright: alexemanuel / 123RF Stock Photo