To share your weakness is to make yourself vulnerable; to make yourself vulnerable is to show your strength. –Criss Jami

Among other things, a leader is charged to hold in trust those who freely choose to follow. Given this, a leader is called to be committed to the ‘growth’ of all of those who freely choose to follow.  The leader is also called to be committed to the ‘growth’ of trusting relationships – whether it be the relationship between the leader and a direct report, or it be a team, or a department, etc.  The leader is also called to be committed to the ‘growth’ of the organization – an organization is simply individuals and relationships writ large.  The leader is also called to be committed to his or her own ‘growth.’  The growth of the others is rooted in and depends upon this final ‘commitment to growth’ – which, makes it the first commitment.

Growth requires one to be vulnerable.  Among other things, in order to grow it is crucial that a leader acknowledge his or her imperfections, limitations and growing edges as well as acknowledging his or her strengths. ‘

Embracing this commitment requires the leader to trust that the vast majority of the led will not purposefully take advantage of the leader’s being vulnerable.  We also know that there is always a few of the led who will take advantage and this brings us back to the concept of the leader carrying the wound-hurt-pain gracefully.

If a leader can remember that each person who chooses to follow is also vulnerable.  Each person also lives a story that involves joys, sorrows, wounds received and wounds delivered – each person is truly a fully human being.  Being vulnerable also means Being Accepting – taking the risk to accept both one’s self and the other(s) as fully human beings (think: imperfect human beings).

Finally, being vulnerable means that one is willing to take a stand: speak his or her truth, hold self and the other(s) accountable; support the unsupported.  Consider the following ‘Five Most Difficult Things for a Leader to Do’:

  • Return Love for Hate
  • Include the Excluded
  • Admitting that “I” am wrong – seek forgiveness
  • Offer Forgiveness – seek healing [for self and for the other]
  • Be Vulnerable

As Leslie Perlow noted: ‘It is important to recognize the cost of not speaking up.’  Your silence can – often does – compromise your integrity.  Your silence can – often does – undermine the very relationships you need in order to be a leader rooted in integrity.  Your silence will also help guaranteed the silence of the other(s) – the other(s) will not speak up at the very times it is crucial for them to do so.

This is the unresolved question: Where do I belong?  And what price do I pay for where I choose to stand? –Diana Trilling

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