"If today’s inclusionary leader wants to be the best leader he or she can be, it will require that they muster up the courage to lead from the heart, especially when it comes to engaging men as allies." - Ray Arata
Vulnerability: A 21st Century Leadership Skill
The current male leadership paradigm is being called into question by the likes of the #Metoo and #Timesup movement. Millennials, which very soon will make up more than 50% of the workforce have an aversion to the outdated patriarchal leadership model. Companies that are looking to improve employee retention and attract high level talent will need much more from its leaders, especially it’s male leadership and corresponding culture. They’ll need vulnerability.
Vulnerability gets a bad rap. Most people hear the word and just the word makes them uncomfortable. Try and start and have a conversation with most men about vulnerability and it’s highly likely that they will consider it an affront to their manhood . Incorporate vulnerability as a skill into inclusive leadership and you just might make up a story about being laughed out of the building which is only a story in your head! In fact, something wonderful could very well happen.
RESEARCH SHOWS PERSONAL CONNECTION AND HAPPINESS DRIVES GREATER EMPLOYEE LOYALTY THAN THE AMOUNT OF THEIR PAYCHECK
In the Harvard Business Review article What Bosses Gain By Being Vulnerable, Dr. Seppala says, “The research shows that the personal connection and happiness employees derive from their work fosters greater loyalty than the amount on their paycheck.” Vulnerability is what’s needed to evolve companies in the existing atmosphere.
If companies wish to get the most out of ALL of their talent for productivity, so they can retain talent and have a an attractive reputation for recruiting new top talent, then creating and committing to a culture where people feel safe to bring their whole selves to work is what it will take. How and who they do this with starts at the top. By inspiring executive management to lead from the heart and/or engage male allies, it sets the stage for the entire enterprise to shift into a true culture of inclusiveness co led by men and women, for men and women.
Healthy masculinity is the new leadership paradigm waiting for men to wake up, and step up into true inclusionary leadership. It’s incumbent that today’s leaders model heart centered leadership, which has as a cornerstone, vulnerability.
Where we feel….uncomfortable enough to be real is where the journey of vulnerability can start. When I have been vulnerable with women they felt more safe. Being vulnerable with men was a different story.
WHILE AFRAID AND IN FRONT OF 40 MEN I LET MY GUARD DOWN, SHOWED MY TRUTH AND I WAS TOTALLY SURPRISED BY WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
As a facilitator on a men’s leadership retreat and during our staff wide check in to prepare for the weekend, I recognized something was bubbling up inside me. It felt like sadness with a whole lot of fear that if I let on that I was feeling sadness and deep grief that these men might think less of me. Worse than that, that they wouldn’t follow my leadership because of my weakness.
Growing up it was taught to me, messaged to me, that we as men don't show our weak side. We don't let on that we are afraid. We certainly don't cry in front of other guys (or anyone for that matter). We keep our problems to ourselves. If we are hurting we tough it out. Society and the media have done their part in perpetuating this non truth.
I went ahead and accessed my courage, took a risk and told the truth about how much I was hurting because of my then estranged relationship with my brother. The real reason I chose to take the risk was because other men that preceded me went first. It gave me permission to be me.
When I risked my deepest vulnerability with these men and made no attempt to filter what was true for me in that moment, my tears came and blasted through my fear. Much to my surprise, I didn't stop breathing….so I would live after all. I felt relief. I felt space. I felt HUMAN. I realized that feeling the pain actually healed it and set the stage.
In front of 40 men, I let my guard down and showed my truth and I was totally surprised by what happened next.
Men came up to me and told me they trusted me, that they respected me and would follow me anywhere. At first it was hard to believe it and let it in because being vulnerable is counter intuitive to most folks, especially men.
But when I looked into their eyes I saw it…their pain, their desire for release, and that by my simply taking a risk, to show ALL OF ME, warts and all….my imperfections ….my human ness …it gave them permission to be just as vulnerable…just as human.
TODAY's INCLUSIONARY LEADER MUST MUSTER UP THE COURAGE TO LEAD FROM THE HEART
If today’s inclusionary leader wants to be the best leader he or she can be, it will require that they muster up the courage to lead from the heart, especially when it comes to engaging men as allies. The root of the word courage is cor—the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today. Courage originally meant “To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart.”
It may not look like how I did it. If you as a leader are struggling, having a tough time, doubting yourself, feeling anxiety, don't know what to do, know that in this space you have a choice. You can pretend that everything is fine (and most smart people will see right through your facade) and you’ll expend unnecessary energy doing so. Potential unintended consequences from this way of leading range from your people doing the same right back to you, not following you, not trusting you. Doesn’t sound efficient does it? This is not a long term option.
Alternatively, you could muster up the courage to be human and share your truth. This is the opportunity that inclusionary leaders have in front of them. What might happen as a result? People will follow you, trust you, bring their best efforts forward because of you and more.
Men are looking for leaders to show them how to be human.. as opposed to spending so much energy to uphold a facade of perfection, that everything is handled, that it’s “all good” .
Developing your ability to be vulnerable as a sign of true strength is what will have your team’s middle managers and individual contributors seeking to bring their best game forward as a result of your vulnerable leadership.
WORKING YOUR VULNERABILITY MUSCLE TAKES SOME EFFORT
Working this vulnerability muscle takes some effort and I have outlined a check list for you to consider and try. You will need a conscious partnership of the head and heart to do this:
Consider that vulnerability is actually a sign of strength
Pick/identify someone you trust, that you feel relatively safe with to be honest
Check in with yourself and share with this person something you would rather have them not know- yes this is where courage comes in handy!
Ask them what was true for them as a result of you sharing this
Let in what they said back to you
Try this with a diverse group of people with different gender identifications.
Each time you do this, it will get a little bit easier!
Founder of the Better Man Conference
Co-Founder, Inclusionary Leadership Group
Keynote Inclusionary Leadership Speaker at www.RayArata.com