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How to be Vulnerable Without Letting it all Hang Out

Have a think about a leader in the business that you admire. What do you really like about them? Is it the way they are robotic and stoic and unapproachable? Or (hopefully) is it that they’re real and authentic?

Honestly, most of us want our leaders to be real. We hear a lot of talk about being authentic. <inserts motivational tone> Be the real you.

But what does this actually mean?

How to be a real person in the workplace

If you look it up, you’ll see a lot of studies suggest that up to 93% of communication is nonverbal. That means we can tell something isn’t adding up when what you’re saying and your body language or tone of voice are not sending the same message.

So, you need to be honest – be yourself – but in a way that still inspires confidence. Think about that leader you admire and the type of leader that you want to grow into. And then, start behaving that way now. We call this the ‘fake it till you make it’ method.

What else can you do?

  • Admit when something is really challenging. If you’re asking your team to hit targets in a really tough market, there’s nothing worse than pretending it’s going to be easy.
  • When you’re facing a family or personal emergency, don’t pretend you’re OK. At best, you’ll be teaching your team that they always have to put on a professional mask at work too – which is stressful. At worst, they won’t realise you’re dealing with a lot on your plate, and they’ll just think you’re being horrible.
  • Ask for help from your team when you need it. You’re leading by example – working together is not weakness, it’s a collaboration.

Don’t take it to extremes

Being honest with your team is not the same as oversharing though. No one wants to hear you bleat on about your troubles all the time. There’s a difference between being vulnerable and letting your emotions leak out all over the team. Remember that there’s a time and a place.

And if things are so bad that you’re struggling, should you even be at work? You might have fooled yourself into thinking that you’re holding it together but remember – nonverbal communication is everything. Your team can tell something is wrong, but they won’t know what. And that can cause underlying tension for everyone. So, you might want to think more about the impact on your team of being there, and not be worrying about what might happen if you’re not.

If you’re more of a people-pleaser and you want to be more of a people leader, have a look at my Leadership Workshops. I’ll help you increase your self-awareness and adapt your style to become the leader you want to be.

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