A Leader's Vulnerability and Courage: Why it Matters in Times of Uncertainty
Updated: Mar 24
A Message from Jonathan Paul
Responding to Uncertainty: Why A Leader’s Courage & Vulnerability Matter Now
Today more than ever your team members, employees and clients need leaders to lead. Crisis demonstrates to us and our organizations where vulnerability lies both in our organizations well- being and the in the collective and individual psychological health of our employees. Crisis also represents an opportunity to begin to exercise leadership in ways that demonstrate to our clients and employees that more than anything else we care about the well-being of people, that we indeed empathize with and are willing to enter intotheir humanness. To be human is to be vulnerable and to enter into another human’s vulnerability is a sacred mantel of leadership, and right now possibly the most important and memorable one.
Crisis makes us feel vulnerable and leaders, especially, do not like to feel vulnerable, largely because they mistake feeling vulnerable with feeling weak. Vulnerability feeds two of our primary human fears: fear of being out of control and fear of “the other.” These two human fears are being perpetuated in the media right now and have probably found footing in your organization. A Leader's willingness to accept their own vulnerability as a natural human condition communicates to their organization that to be human is to, at times, be frail, and being frail is our most common characteristic as people. Your people need to know that all of us in this moment are feeling vulnerable, but we are together in our vulnerability.
The kind courage that is now needed, responds not with bravado or with the absence of fear, but with a faith and action that communicate abundance: courageous leaders share resources in times of crisis. Sharing now will build a community of trust only an action towards plenty can create. Leaders must also not succumb to division. “We versus they thinking” in this moment will serve only to build walls between people, increase isolation and foster empire building, the opposite of community building. We really are all in this together. A leader’s courageous response now, a focus on the well- being of your employees and clients by entering into our shared vulnerability as humans, one and all, will create a pathway to enduring and purposeful unity in your organization and community born from our shared journey through crisis. So be courageous, and be vulnerable, you won’t regret it.
As a Leader Here is What you Can do to Demonstrate Courage & Vulnerability
I.Respond to the 3 Innate Needs of your Employees:
1.)Our Need for Belonging: "Physical distance, but social connectedness”, “you may be out of the office, but you belong to us." Stay connected with your people-social distancing can lead to social isolation, which can lead to clinical anxiety, and depression. Connectedness requires connecting to individual employees with individual needs.
The Leadership Team for one client we work with is calling every client and every employee once a week to ensure they know they belong.
2.)Our Need for Purpose: Build something meaningful: Engage your employees in purposeful, meaningful work even in down times. This can mean operational and strategic work. AT&T continued to employee and engage all of its workers during the Great Depression to continue to build something of meaning in a time of constriction.
A clinical motto in times of crisis is "Do the Next Thing." This means doing the next thing in front of you. Purposeful and productivity contribute to the well- being of all of us.
3.)Our Need for Security: We all need to know that we will be safe. Safety here beyond following CDC protocol etc. may find expression in how you communicate your commitment to employees about job security during uncertainty.
II. Communicate with Truth and Optimism
1.)Address the reality of the situation with an eye on the future: Address what you know and how you are responding in one -week segments, 30 -day segments, 100 -day segments, while creating understanding that things may change.
2.)Communicate what you are learning as an organizationand how you function as a result of this crisis, and new ways you can adapt and operate.
3.)Communicate opportunities that may present themselves as a result of change. As a leader focus on opportunities that present themselves as a result of changing conditions: your current clients have new needs you can respond to, vet this out with employees and use this time to create new services.
4.)Communicate frequently, specifically and concretely with your employees and clients.
III. Be Courageous
1.) Reflect:Your honest reflection upon why you exist as an organization is an important exercise today in that it gives context, meaning and hope to your employees and clients. Communicating why your organization gets out of bed every morning will lift morale by purveying hope.
2.) Refine: Refine your mission: refine what you are building to acquire your vision to incorporate any changes in how you need to now operate.
3.) Respond: Leadership requires a measured, tangible, actionable response in times of crisis. Don't let the weight of the moment hinder what needs to be done today.
Praying God’s grace and courage for each of you.
Jonathan (*thanks to, B. Brown, M Rosenburg M. Lee, A Maslow for contributing to this content)
Jonathan Paul is a Business Consultant and Writer that integrates his Clinical Mental and Vocational Health education with organizational practices that lead to growing organizations.