Vulnerability is a concept that creates powerful emotions for many leaders who have strong reactive tendencies.
“THE CAVE YOU FEAR TO ENTER HOLDS THE TREASURE YOU SEEK.” ~ Joseph Campbell
In many cases male doctors have historically embraced the concept of “Machoism” or the belief that we should “never let them see us sweat”. Many women leaders believe that they must reject vulnerability in male dominated industries to avoid being bullied or perceived as weak.
Collectively, male and female aspiring leaders view vulnerability as a weakness and a contradiction to effective leadership. The very thought of becoming a more vulnerable leader creates anxiety, and yet, vulnerability is exactly what makes them more approachable, more human, and a much more effective leader.
Reactive tendencies shield us from vulnerability
Brene Brown, a highly regarded psychologist, researcher, and author, believes that our reactive tendencies serve as protective armor and shield us from vulnerability. How is it that we have come to believe that without our protective armor others will see our perceived blemishes and weaknesses, and that being viewed as such is incompatible with effective leadership?
These same reactive tendencies may have served us well previously and may even have facilitated our upward mobility within our organization. Yet, when we step into a leadership position, our reactive tendencies can become counterproductive. Take for example, someone who is a driven perfectionist. Their drive and commitment to perfection may be highly valued within their organization. Consequently, they may rapidly rise to higher levels of authority. It is when they step into a position of leadership that things change. Their excessive drive and perfectionism, unless tempered with a significant degree of emotional intelligence, may be off putting for their team and diminish their ability to lead.
The same is true for those aspiring leaders who are distant or choose to lead through emotional absenteeism. Their technical knowledge and skill may catapult them into the higher echelons of their organization, but once they assume a leadership role, these reactive tendencies become negatives as their team views them as secretive, unapproachable, and cold. These leaders suffer because they appear to lack the “human touch” that creates strong bonds with their team.
Reframe our understanding of vulnerability
Simply stated, leadership requires a different skill set, improved self-awareness, and the ability to reframe our understanding of vulnerability as a contributing factor to effective leadership. The Leadership Circle Profile 360 assessment has enabled doctors to achieve a much higher degree of self-awareness. We use this valuable leadership assessment for our clients. For many, this is the first time for them to see their leadership through the eyes of those they lead. Seeing how we show up for our team creates the necessary awareness that allows us to make choices that counter our sub-conscious knee-jerk reactive responses.
Viktor Frankl famously stated the following:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.
Frankl’s quote is both beautiful and prophetic, and yet we would choose to add one more thought. It is our belief that in our response lies our leadership. Armed with knowledge of our reactive tendencies and how they diminish our ability to lead, we can utilize the space between stimulus and response to tailor our reaction. We have the power and choice to select an alternative response that makes us a more compassionate perfectionist, or less distant and cold, and more approachable. We have the choice to become more vulnerable and in doing so we become a better leader.
Those doctors that have chosen to take the results of their Leadership Circle Profile 360 to heart and work diligently to diminish their reactive tendencies have seen the culture in their practices improve beyond what they believed possible. The doctor’s ability to become more vulnerable by mitigating their reactivity enables them to communicate with their team at a much better and more productive level. As a result, they are seeing their staff transform into a more cohesive and collaborative team.
Some of the other more significant benefits brought about by this transformation include the following:
- A more joyful practice culture
- Less doctor stress
- Better work/life balance
- Less staff drama
- A more focused team
- Less staff turnover
- More commitment to practice growth initiatives.
- Improved profitability
- Happier patients and /or referral sources.
Think for a moment about the most cherished mentors that significantly impacted your life. What characteristics did they possess? We would be willing to bet that you found them to be authentic, approachable, and yes, even vulnerable. Without these qualities it would be difficult, if not impossible, to be a significant mentor for others.
Wouldn’t you want to be a significant mentor for your team? As pastor and author Craig Groeschel once stated, “People would rather follow a leader that is always real than one that is always right.” Being real means being vulnerable. It’s time to take stock of how we lead and how we show up for our team. Change always begins at the top.
If you are interested in going deeper on this concept and others to help achieve Peak Performance in your practice, our next cohort of the Leader to Leader Group Coaching program is open for registration.
In the Leader to Leader group coaching program, we meet you where you are and help you get to where you are intended to be. This involves addressing any urgent issues (happening a lot these days!) and then helping you, your team, and your business become a more robust version of yourselves.
We focus on specific competencies found in highly effective leaders who serve the highest performing businesses. Click here for more details on this leadership program and mastermind created just for dentists, physicians and healthcare professionals.
Dr. Joel Small and Dr. Edwin McDonald, the founders of Line of Sight Coaching, are dental practitioners, authors, speakers and Business Leadership Coaches who work with healthcare professionals to help them build more successful practices so they can live the balanced life they seek.