The gift of vulnerability


A month or two ago, I visited the Japanese baths with a group of friends from university days. Soaking in the baths has been part of our ritual for the past few years. At the risk of too much information (a phrase that often heralds vulnerability is nigh!), the Japanese baths require that you are naked. No underwear. Naked.

Being naked amongst friends is an interesting experience. Despite our decades of friendship, it still made me feel vulnerable.

However, one thing I distinctly remember from that first trip was the depth of conversation. We seemed to delve deeper. There was something about being naked - and open to the vulnerability that nakedness brings – that intensified our thinking, insight and conversation.

Vulnerability delivers all sorts of gifts to leadership: trust, empathy, opportunity, entrepreneurship, courage, innovation and more.

Yet, vulnerability is a bit like an open fire – it can offer warmth and light; however, it can burn when mishandled.

How can you maximise the warmth and light and minimize the risk of burn? Apply vulnerability with truth, connection and focus.

  • Truth – Clients often say to me “oh! So I need to find something to share so I can show my vulnerability and be a better leader”. Wrong. Vulnerability is about being true, genuine and authentic. You might be sharing something about yourself, or, indeed, you might share something you don’t know. Saying “I don’t know” or “Can you help me[HS8] ?” can show your vulnerability.

  • Connection – Start with the people you know. You don’t need to tell the guy making your sandwich that your marriage is a wreck. Tweeting your problems with a project or person, writ large, is not vulnerability. It’s over-sharing. One of the gifts of vulnerability is that it builds trust, so start with people you already connect with and who will support you

  • Focus – If things are difficult for you, let others know what you need. It might be support, advice – or simply some space.

Has vulnerability been something you have shown in your personal or professional life? Or have you avoided it? What happened? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Best response will receive a copy of “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown, a thought leader on vulnerability. Email or send me a message.

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© 2020 Helga Svendsen