How Being Vulnerable Strengthen Leaders

How Being Vulnerable Strengthens Leaders

If you think leadership strength is founded on hiding emotions, keeping insecurities under wraps, and pretending you know everything, you may want to rethink your leadership strategy.

Here are six examples of how being more open with your managers and bringing them into the fold of ideation, strategy and decision-making can be good for you, for your managers and for your company's future:

1. Admit you don’t know it all and that you need help.

When leadership admits they need the people who report to them to learn and grow, then they can expand their individual capabilities as well as cultivate the business. For example, managers brought in from outside industries offer a repository of ideas from their industry that could add value to leadership's way of operating and selling.

If the focus only is on the manager getting to know the industry, and leadership continually shuts down any new ideas they may offer that would augment marketing, sales or other operational strategies, then leadership likely is missing out.

Such a narrow, know-it-all perspective can leave leadership in the dust of competitors who are willing to open up to and borrow techniques from other industries and markets.

2. Empower your managers.

It's not just about granting titles and pretending that managers actually have authority. Leadership must truly permit them to manage and make real decisions – even stumble and fall a few times without fear that leadership will become angry or they will lose their jobs.

By genuinely encouraging them to apply their ingenuity, take risks and make strategic bold moves, leadership not only reinforces their value, but also deepens their connection and commitment to their job and to the organization. 

3. Trust your managers.

This sounds simple enough, in writing. But often, trust is something that leaders fail to really grant their managers, perhaps because trusting someone else to do their job in turn reflects on leadership's reputation.

This makes leadership feel vulnerable.

Instead, they give an impression of trust but then shatter that illusion by imposing themselves into whatever it is that the manager is supposed to be doing; e.g., negotiating a large deal; researching the next big advertising campaign; or implementing a new accounting system.

Whatever it is, as long as there are proper checks and balances built in – and check-ins with leadership – then leadership should demonstrate trust by 'leaving their managers alone' to do their jobs.

4. Give them ownership.

If leadership has a manager who has proven they treat their role as diligently as an owner would, then let them own that role. In other words, give them room to expand the budget, grow the product or service capability, expand the customer base, experiment with sales or marketing or customer service, or whatever it is that they are inspired to do. Bottom line: back off.

Because leadership has been doing something the same way for 15 years doesn't mean it's the best – or only – way. In fact, if leadership's been working in a vacuum, they are likely best served by someone from the outside who can bring a fresh perspective.

5. Beware of bogging them down with busy work.

If a manager is meeting – and exceeding goals – and they seem to have a good sense for the flow of business and your requirements, then leaving them alone to plan their day is probably best.

Oftentimes, leaders wield their power by assigning excessive lists of tasks or interjecting themselves into their management's day unnecessarily. Doing so can interrupt the positive flow of energy and momentum managers may be experiencing and may quickly be perceived as micro managing. 

6. Openly express appreciation.

Managers know when their leadership is holding back compliments, and they feel the effects of being under-appreciated. Openly thanking managers for a job well done or for achieving a goal that was challenging is not soft or weak; on the contrary, expressing appreciation goes a long way to retain management loyalty.