The Vulnerable Leader

I love this TED talk by Brene Brown.


In it she describes her research on ‘the whole hearted’.  She found that they demonstrate:

  • the courage to be imperfect
  • compassion – for self and others
  • connection to others as a result of authenticity
  • willingness to fully embrace vulnerability as a necessary part of a life well-lived.

‘In order for connection to happen we have to allow ourselves to be seen….really seen’

This reminds me of the inspirational leaders I have worked for.  There was something about their willingness to be wrong; their compassion for themselves, the team and the clients and their absolute authenticity, that was utterly compelling. I wanted to do a great job for these leaders. It was enlivening to work for them. I knew that if I made a mistake they would show the same compassion for me that they showed to everyone. That openness to vulnerability and compassion seemed to create an atmosphere where I could make wiser decisions in my work.

Why does compassion and openness to vulnerability make a difference? I think it is because then it allows us to:

  1. Be in contact with the present moment – seeing the world as it is, rather than as as our minds tell us it is. We can then take action based on the real situation rather than our internal story about what is happening.
  2. Make space for painful feelings with compassion rather than trying to avoid or control them. This frees up an awful lot of mental energy.
  3. Acknowledge when we aren’t acting according to our values and adjust our behaviour.  It can be very painful to realise that we have let ourselves down and, in some way, not been the person we want to be. Self compassion and acceptance (rather than avoidance) of painful feelings enable us to notice these moments and use them to guide our next steps.

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