Compassionate Leadership – The Value In Vulnerability

Go to any business seminar, business class, group meeting, or school and the word, vulnerability, is probably not mentioned. Why not? Because in many schools of thoughts, vulnerability is synonymous with weakness. Weakness means a poor leader and a poor business person. Weakness means financial death.

But what if it doesn’t? What if we have bought into this whole lie in business that in order to be effective leaders, you must be distant. Tough. No nonsense and merciless. Look at Wall Street. None of those scream vulnerable.

If you think about it, unless you are in the business of only dealing with machines, most leaders deal with other human beings. Human beings have feelings. Human beings, psychologically, crave connection. Connection with each other and on some level, connection with the leader that is supposed to empower them to victory.

You can not connect without vulnerability.

Why is it that vulnerability seems like such a dirty word? Part of it is good old fashioned conditioning of our society. Part of it is our own life experiences. Not many people can shout joyfully that vulnerability has never opened the doors to being hurt. Of course it has. And human nature is to then shut down those doors so it doesn’t happen again. Vulnerability hurts. Vulnerability requires bravery. Vulnerability is scary.

It isn’t that we are cowards. Just humans. However vulnerability is essential to keeping those human beings you lead not only happy and connected but loyal and around. No one is going to feel loyalty to a company or person if they don’t feel connected to that person.This will bleed out to their work which then will lack and then before you know it, out goes another person.

When did we start to sacrifice people to the wheel of “well that’s just how it is”? Why? Why does it have to be that we no longer care about the people who work for us? Why is it that “corporate America” always brings up the same thoughts: they don’t care about us. They just care about money.

If we want to change our businesses to be better, if we want to keep our employees longer; then we need to be willing to take the time and effort to see the value that they offer as human beings first and employees second.

Maybe someone is artistic and creative. They could have fantastic ideas on how to market or find a way around obstacles that seem insurmountable. Maybe someone is quiet and lacks self confidence in one area, but you put them in just the right role and they soar. Maybe that person who you were willing to write off because they made one mistake would use that criticism to become an amazing employee for the future.

Let’s take a few real-life examples of “vulnerable” business giants.

Glenn W. Turner, who for some is a con man and others a revolutionary business man, nonetheless has proven to be a business giant. Going from bankrupt, poor and an eighth grade drop out with few options but self motivation; Glenn became a millionaire success in the short time span of 3 years. Regardless of what you may think of him as a business man or his business practices, it can’t be denied that his prime motivation is realizing the potential in other human beings. With slogans such as “Dare To Be Great!” and the belief that every, single human being from your janitor and garbage man to your every day soccer mom, has the potential of greatness lying inside of them. In order to believe in this philosophy, you also have to be willing to show vulnerability. Potential doesn’t come without risks and failures.

Zig Ziglar is another business tycoon whose entire success was in the motivation of human beings. Struggling initially as a salesman until a mentor gave him the words and skills to succeed, Zig quickly skyrocketed in the industry. Seeing an opportunity to take what he knew and to help others, he quit his job as a salesman in the 70s and started being in the business of motivation. However, Zig wasn’t about “fake it to make it” philosophies that rely on false confidence and bravado. He allowed vulnerability to be a stepping stone versus a weight around his neck. Before his death, Zig sold several best sellers, sold out conferences, and founded the Living to Change Lives Foundation.

These men allowed their vulnerability and willingness to connect with others to propel themselves both personally and financially.

Now, I’m not saying sacrifice your business for the sake of those who do not do well in their role. You have to keep your business running and of course, not everyone will do well. But, if you really want the good ones to stick around, then invest in them. Not just financially, but emotionally as well. You may find, as Zig and Glenn did, that the rewards you reap are far greater than you imagine.


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