How Do Vulnerability and Leadership Work Together?

I’ve always worked with smart, good people, well-meaning people who wanted to make a difference in healthcare. We worked hard and I think felt good about what we were accomplishing together.

But were we thriving? Were we transformative?  No.

Yes, the goals were met, but the controls and conformity were pretty tight.  And it’s my impression that most other healthcare organizations are in the same state.

Enter Vulnerability.   Alert – vulnerability is the main thing that holds us back from letting go of control, being comfortable with being ourselves, and growing as a team. 

(Disclosure – I rewrote my last blog, 10/6 Thriving in Nursing – ….  Part of my ‘rumbling’ with how vulnerability affects nurses. You may appreciate my clarifications.)

Vulnerability is   

  1. uncertainty  
  2. risk  
  3. emotional exposure

The energy wrapped in Vulnerability catapults us to Courage and Authenticity when we learn to release Self-Protection.

Vulnerability is a part of life, Not optional.

Depending on our level of self-protection in any moment, determines our level of authenticity and full engagement.

It’s my experience that healthcare executives, … well, all healthcare leaders are good at vulnerability avoidance, … Vulnerability avoidance makes sense, given the human life element…but

The down side is that when we avoid ‘rumbling’ with our feelings of vulnerability, then we tend to protect ourselves from what really matters  …

Seems counter intuitive, doesn’t it?   Yet we see it often … 

What Self-Protection from Vulnerability Looks Like When It Affects People: 

  • Chandeliering –  “Chandelier pain” is pain that hurts so bad that people jump to chandelier heights when touched.  Compare this to those who hold their pain, fear, control in so deeply that when they explode, they hit chandelier heights with emotion.  (These levels of reactions can happen with anyone, but when there are power differentials, it tends to happen in those who power-over)
  • Bouncing Hurt – This is where the hurt or fear is deep and the ego self-protects by blaming others, finding fault, making excuses
  • Numbing hurt – This is where we take the edge off  hurt, vulnerability through alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, over spending, over WORKING, care taking, over doing, perfectionism, …
  • Stockpiling Hurt – no eruptions, blaming, numbing ….  just swallowing the vulnerability or pain. And eventually we get sick. “The body wins every time.”
  • Hurt and Fear create High centering – Like a car that is high centered, we can’t move forward or back, we are paralyzed, wheels spinning

How to “Rumble” and Win With Vulnerability

  • Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to stand up and speak when we are not sure, when we have no control of the outcome.
  • Vulnerability involves courage, and inner strength.
  • No one goes the road of vulnerability alone.  Asking for help is risky. We survive and thrive only through connection.
  • We become willing to lean into the discomfort of vulnerability. It involves hurt, self-judgment, and threatens our sense of self-trust and worthiness… to ultimately let it flow through us and make us strong.
  • How we befriend vulnerability and cultivate our inner resources…..dictates how we see the world,  impacts our authenticity and connections with others, and our empathy and compassion …

From Rising Strong, Brene Brown, vulnerability researcher and author

Working in a Vulnerability Safe Zone helps us grow our authenticity and connections and helps us thrive in nursing as nurse leaders.

image courtesy of William Krause

2 thoughts on “How Do Vulnerability and Leadership Work Together?

  1. Very good article. I will be experiencing a few of these issues as well..

    1. pmcclendon says:

      Thank you. I hope it will help in your experiences. pat

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