My work as a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach leads me to frequent discussions about focusing on one’s strengths. I know what you’re thinking, “Well, duh.” But hang in there with me for a moment. This simple shift toward focusing on strengths and away from concentrating on weaknesses is profound for many, who, like me, have previously thought that the best/easiest/most direct way to “win the game of life” was to convince the world that they were weakness-free. The revelation that a weakness-free life is neither realistic, nor attainable, is actually a huge relief for many of the people that I’ve had the privilege to coach.
No one wants to appear frail or unsteady. However, we connect on a human level with our friends, family, neighbors, spouses, and workmates when we can be authentic. Authenticity means seeing the good and the bad, the strengths and the weaknesses, the highs and the lows in a person’s life. Many of us are unaccustomed to sharing the negative pieces of our lives: the bad, the embarrassments, and the lows. However, as the quote above aptly reminds us, the courage to show vulnerability, and speak the truth, is a strength in and of itself.
Vulnerability Enhances Leadership
Notable business leaders have used their vulnerability to better connect with their team and the public. Howard Schultz and Cheryl Sandberg are two well-known and revered leaders who have both shown vulnerability when they encountered a crisis – a historic business decline and the unexpected death of a spouse, respectively – and emerged better leaders for their trials and tribulations, honesty, and openness. Sandberg has acknowledged that while most leaders do not seek out ways to show their vulnerability, since her husband’s death she is “much closer to the people around (her) than (she) was.” (www.leadershipfirst.expert).
How can you be courageous and vulnerable? How can you recognize your strengths while simultaneously speaking the truth and sharing your weaknesses?
- Admitting a mistake
- Making amends
- Giving credit where credit is due
- Sincerely apologizing
These are all skills that take leadership and strength but, also, take vulnerability and authenticity. As we approach the holidays, let’s try to take the lead at work and at home and practice these skills that depict strength, courage, and authenticity.