“Never let ’em see you sweat.” Is that your mantra as a leader? While it’s perfectly fine to show confidence, strength and knowledge, it’s also necessary to show your human frailties. Why? Because vulnerability is a precursor to trusting relationships with others and continued development as a leader.

Patrick Lencioni’s article, The Trouble with Teamwork, outlines his position that teamwork is a strategic choice that requires trust, and that trust must be based on vulnerability. Mr. Lencioni says that team members need to understand and acknowledge their own mistakes and failures in order to improve. The only way that type of openness happens is if the leader goes first. In his words, “team members…need their leader to strip naked and dive into the cold water first.”

Humanergy works with leaders to understand that vulnerability is also a required component of growth and continuous improvement. Outstanding performers know they need to be lifelong learners. The key is to be confident about the things you know and can do, while being honest and forthright about what you don’t know or do well.

How do you demonstrate both confidence and vulnerability?

Celebrate strengths. Recognize where you excel and make sure that others are appreciated for their unique capabilities.

Acknowledge that you’re human. Can you say “I’m not sure” or “I messed up” without flinching? Nobody’s perfect. Face that fact, and don’t apologize for it.

Make it public. It’s one thing to acknowledge to yourself that you need to improve. Sharing your imperfections with others requires courage. If you’re the leader, you need to go first. If you don’t do it, no one else will. And your culture will be one where no one admits failure or seeks help.

Treat people with respect, especially when they screw up. There’s an old saying that kids need love most when they deserve it least. So do your employees. You can be firm and not be a jerk. You can have high expectations and not expect perfection. Be specific in your feedback when things go wrong. Your goal should be learning from mistakes whenever possible.

Combining the dynamic duo of confidence and vulnerability creates a workplace of people not afraid to take calculated risks and learn from them. Yes, this means the leaders will be seen sweating from time to time. They may feel a bit uncomfortable with this at first. They’ll survive, and they and the organization will thrive.

Have a question or want some input from Humanergy about this topic? Contact us and we’ll get right back to you!