I often talk about the power of vulnerability. What I haven’t been talking about are the boundaries which enable vulnerability.
As Brene Brown points out in her latest book, “Dare to Lead”, vulnerability without boundaries is not vulnerability. It’s offloading, dumping, attention-getting and more. Without boundaries, vulnerability becomes a liability instead of the superpower it has the potential to be.
Vulnerability in leadership
Take, for example, a team who might be going through some tough times. Perhaps there’s a lot of stress and uncertainty given how badly things are going.
Imagine a leader saying: “I lay awake at night worrying about all the work in front of us. In fact, I’m getting stressed, and I think I might even be heading for a breakdown. Some days I just feel so helpless trying to fix this.”
How would you respond to a leader sharing in this way? Sharing at this level will remove the leader’s ability to lead. The problem is the leader has turned the attention inward. It’s no longer about how the leader can make the team successful.
Vulnerability with boundaries is a strength as it will help to open the conversation. In being vulnerable, you will permit others to do the same. When this happens, you will start to have the conversations that matter.
Vulnerability with boundaries still involves sharing how you’re feeling. What the leader might instead say “I know there’s a lot of concern and stress about what’s happening. Frankly, I’m feeling it too. Now, what would help from me look like?”
Notice the difference?
Leaders need leaders (or other support)
Leaders need a support network whether it is colleagues, a coach, therapist or anyone who can help them move through their stuff.
Often, leadership teams operate more like a group than a team. The lost opportunity in this is the support they could get from the leadership team. Having support is one reason a leader’s alliance needs to be first to the leadership teams and second to their reports.
Wherever you find it, just find the support you need so you can lead with boundaries. It’s ok to ask for help.