This post is about vulnerability, courage, and authenticity
I was listening to a talk by executive coach John Mattone about what he learned when coaching Steve Jobs.
What I remembered the most about the talk was this line:
“The greatest demonstration of courage in life is making the decision to be vulnerable.”
At first, this may sound counter-intuitive. Vulnerable - isn’t that showing weakness?
That’s precisely why it takes tremendous courage to be vulnerable.
It is far easier to pretend to be strong or to hide our fear and insecurity than to show our vulnerability. Others can see when we are not authentic - often more clearly than we notice ourselves.
To me, the definition of “authenticity” is the alignment between what we think (mind), what we feel (heart), what we say (language), and what we do (actions).
Brene Brown has a famous TedTalk about vulnerability, courage, and how to show up as who we are.
“Courage” comes from the Latin word “cour”, which means “heart”. Brene Brown articulates that “Courage” is to tell your story of who you are with your whole heart, and that vulnerability is actually the courage to show up and be seen.
Reflecting back on my career, I realize that I didn’t have the courage to be vulnerable for most of my earlier years. I was too consumed with my career ambitions and a burning desire to prove myself.
I said the “right things” during career networking interviews. I thought being a plant manager was a stamp I needed to collect in order to climb the corporate ladder.
I didn’t challenge my bosses at times because I was afraid of making them think less of me.
I made mistakes, yet I was too busy explaining the circumstances.
Leadership is an experiment. Personally, I have been experimenting with courage and vulnerability in recent years. The results have been 2-fold: (1) others seem to receive it very well, and (2) I feel far more grounded and confident. I have made a commitment to myself in being authentic with all my might.
Authenticity takes intentional effort. What has been a good sanity check for me is to quickly scan the following questions to check for alignment. Alignment equals authenticity.
What am I thinking?
What am I feeling?
What am I saying?
What am I doing?
I am curious, what does "authenticity" mean to YOU?
If you are open to exploring this a bit, I’d invite you to 2 simple reflective exercises:
If you were to reflect on the past 24 hours, in what ways have you been authentic?
As you look forward to the next 24 hours, in what ways might you choose to show up more authentically?
Remember, leadership is an experiment. You can’t do it wrong. You only learn from it. Why don’t we play?
Practice, reflect, tweak, and practice again. Have fun with it!
“Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead”, Brene Brown
“Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value”, Bill George