The power of vulnerability

Jun 15, 2015
There is a huge misunderstanding in the way most people treat vulnerability. More specifically, there is a problem with how people show their own vulnerability. While many believe this is seen as a sign of weakness, I consider a balanced demonstration of strengths and weaknesses an indication of self-knowledge, self-confidence and true value.

To prospects

Often I see people looking for shelter behind their laptop, or, even worse, behind their own back when giving presentations to prospective customers. They are looking at their screen or at the whiteboard most of the time, grasping hold on the content of their slides. Next to clearly showing their uncertainty, they miss out important, non-verbal feedback from their audience.

Presenters who expose their full body to the audience however, give the impression of really knowing the subject and display self-confidence. They can monitor their audience and adapt their presentation accordingly: they can skip some things and attribute more attention and time to other topics as they see and feel the need for it.

To customers

Some people believe they must conceal their mistakes to customers as much as possible. They are afraid to provide them extra arguments to start commercial discussions whenever problems occur later on. I firmly disagree. To begin with, being open makes it easier for them to also be transparent about their own problems. Secondly, recognizing and discussing issues facilitates their resolution. This is more than ever true in complex projects that involve a lot of diverse people.

To team members

Why should you try to act like a superman to the team you’re leading? It doesn’t matter whether this is one person or a full organization. While you must still assume full responsibility, nobody expects you to be able to do and know everything yourself.

A true team leader is able to assess his team members’ strengths and weaknesses, including his own. Only this way, you can create a consistent team that is stronger than the sum of all of its members apart. You can play on everyone’s strengths, while compensating for their weaknesses. At the same time, recognizing and exposing your own limitations allows other people to complement you and to shine on their own strengths.

To yourself

Accepting your limitations allows you to find peace with yourself. You can take them into account when planning your objectives and actions. It allows you to surround yourself with the right skills to create a stronger combined offering and – eventually – to shift these limitations forward. This is also the key message of one of my blogs of last year, testifying about my burnout. Allowing yourself to be imperfect and admitting this to your environment can actually strengthen your position.

To a vulnerable superman

Do not try to appear like a superman who knows and can do everything. Don’t be afraid to show some vulnerability. But, of course, at the same time, also display your strengths. While inviting the people around you to do the same, they will recognize you as being honest and self-confident. Your relationship will strengthen and your chances for success will increase!


Author: Jan Delaere. You can follow Jan on Twitter (@delaerej) or connect with him on LinkedIn