Leaning Into Vulnerability In Your Daily Life Is Possible: Here Are 3 Lessons I Share With UN Leaders
Last Summer I sat on a panel with a friend, Christen Brandt, and spoke for the first time to UN Leaders. There may have been less confidence laced in my speech at the time than there is now, but the one quality that has not changed is the amount of heart in my voice as I tell the words to my story.
During that first talk I stumbled upon the theme that would be the basis for the next three talks I gave over the last few months. In Switzerland, last September, is when I debuted my "Leading From A Place Of Vulnerability" talk.
I stood in front of the warmest crowds ever as I weaved how authenticity played a huge role in being a strong leader. When I looked out at different faces this past January in Turin, Italy my talk had become more refined, more relatable and all without losing the gut punch that comes with realizing how beneficial leaning into vulnerability can be.
In what can only be described as a full circle moment, yesterday I was able to speak at the same event that kicked off this series a year ago.
Here are 3 anchors to my talk and how you can apply them to your personal life.
Remember, you're human
One of my strongest hooks to getting an audience to commit to listening to a leadership strategy they may have never encountered before is to start with my own story.
I started Too Damn Young, a community + resource for teens and young adults who lost someone they love, in 2014 because I was one of those young adults. I was a senior in college, 3 months away from graduation, when I bought the domain. Simultaneously, I was also just a handful of weeks into grieving the loss of my grandma, who I had been a primary caregiver for.
The community I've fostered since has grown because in my quest to lead the whole I never lost track of my own humanity - and I made sure the community around it never did either.
Being authentic and sharing how I was in the thick of grieving as much as they all were empowered those around me to take on more responsibility and rally for the larger cause. This wouldn't have been the same if I'd existed in a silo and stuck to the strict definition of what strength and leadership were supposed to look like.
On that note, define vulnerability for yourself
So often the fear for the act comes from not understanding what the word means in your own life. Vulnerability being deemed a weakness, especially when in play in business relationships, is a wall I've had to knock down with each talk. I make it a point to state that vulnerability is my biggest strength and can be for those who choose to include it in their day to day. The strength from the act is born because it simultaneously does two things - it allows those who you're around to see your authentic self and puts the choice on them on whether to act in kind.
It also, maybe most importantly, encourages you to continuously challenge your own growth and perceptions of what you deem as strength. Redefining the word 'vulnerability' begins with acknowledging the definitions and stereotypes you already have associated with the word. Do you believe it's oversharing? Do you believe it's being emotional? Are you worried it'll point out your weaknesses?
In short, here are answers. (1) This goes back to the first point. It's not oversharing as much as it is reminding those around you that you're a human and that respecting your humanity feeds into your ability to exist without an overinflated ego. (2) Acknowledging emotions is not the same as being emotional. (An entirely other post for another time.) (3) Your decision to share any part of yourself taps into your self-awareness, which is a strength in anyone's book.
Being vulnerable is a muscle to be strengthened
Yesterday, when someone made mention of how much they'd been struck by a point I made, I further expanded on something I make sure to say every time - being vulnerable is like any other skill. You need to practice and make sure you start practicing in safe environments.
I started with my writing. It was a one- sided interaction that helped me learn my own barriers of what I was and wasn't okay sharing, plus the manner in which I felt comfortable sharing. Then I slowly but surely started applying that same language in my personal relationships first, followed by my work relationships.
Giving myself time to clearly understand how vulnerability came into play in my own life made it possible to have it bring added value to my relationship with myself and the other relationships I exist in.
Start slow. Jot down what you feel okay sharing now and then slowly but surely build that list out.
Regardless of where I give any variation of this talk the reminder is the same - no one exists in a vacuum and retrospect will show that the more authenticity is weaved into a person's day-to-day the more likely they are to inspire those around them to commit to the mission at large.