By Tino Mantella
TLG President & CEO
As leaders, some of us have historically strived to do everything in our power to not show vulnerability. People who subscribed to the old adage “never let them see you sweat” often wore that as a badge of honor. In the past, I’ve found myself in this place because I wanted to project a sense of control, no matter the test or the challenge. It can be a lonely and dishonest place. Yet, many of us sensed that showing vulnerability was a weakness. We felt our followers would question our ability to lead if we gave them a peek under the veil.
Over my career, I gradually learned that demonstrating sincere emotion made me more approachable. Employees began to see me as a real person. For example, I was brought to tears when I introduced a staffer from an inner-city YMCA who had lost two of her sons to gang violence. Many of my staff that were with me that day shared how much that meant to them to see how I expressed my feelings in that way.
More recently, I shared private aspects of my life story, previously hidden, with an audience of high-school seniors. We all have embarrassing moments in life that we would rather keep to ourselves. It was hard for me to go outside my comfort zone, yet, I do believe that of all my speeches over the years, that will be one that will be most meaningful to the audience.
Being Vulnerable is a Strength
Times are changing. Vulnerable leaders, according to research, are more likely to be seen as authentic and trustworthy. When leaders are open about their challenges and mistakes, it helps to normalize these experiences and create a culture of psychological safety where team members feel more comfortable taking risks and sharing their own vulnerabilities.
Now, I am not suggesting you start crying at your next staff meeting. I am hoping we all show more of our real selves. Most people will appreciate knowing who you are. It may require you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, or maybe you have already evolved to a higher form of human life. If you aren’t there yet, I invite you to try vulnerability. You may find that the “juice is worth the squeeze.”