Reliance on our strengths alone won’t get us the progress we need on our toughest challenges. To supercharge our leadership, we must also identify our vulnerabilities and triggers. Then – and this is the leadership behavior – we have to manage those vulnerabilities and triggers purposefully and productively.
Be Vulnerable, but Manage Your Vulnerabilities
Being vulnerable and managing your vulnerabilities are too different things. Often, leadership requires you to speak from the heart to the heart. That’s being vulnerable.
At KLC, we use vulnerabilities to mean something different. Vulnerabilities are those things that leave you open to attack. There is no shame in having vulnerabilities. They are a characteristic of being human. Most of us have a host of vulnerabilities. If not managed well, vulnerabilities diminish our capacity to lead.
- Vulnerabilities can be embarrassing secrets, difficult relationships, past mistakes, private ambitions, or personal cravings that make it harder for us to have the impact we desire.
- Implicit biases are vulnerabilities until we make them conscious and develop strategies to work around them.
- Sometimes your role is a vulnerability.
You may be the CEO of your company. A vulnerability for you, in your authority role, could be that people expect you to have all the answers. Or maybe some people react with hostility to your ideas because they grew up with a deep distrust of authority. Managing Self looks like acknowledging those vulnerabilities (at least to yourself) and finding ways to work around them.
Perhaps you are a front-line worker or community volunteer. Lack of direct access to decision making power could be a vulnerability you’ll need to acknowledge and work around if you hope to get anything done.
A Trigger Unmanaged is a Vulnerability
Nothing makes us more vulnerable to leadership failure than having lots of things that trigger us. People learn to press our buttons. It becomes next to impossible to accomplish anything important.
When we talk about triggers within the KLC framework, we use the word differently than in medical models related to PTSD. Within the competency of Manage Self, a trigger is something that simply sets you off, negatively or positively, and causes you to react in ways that interfere with relationships, performance and leadership goals.
Triggers are other people’s actions that bug you, behaviors that irk you, points-of-view that frustrate you, or (and this one is particularly insidious) types of flattery that never fail to distract you from the challenge at hand. Don’t kid yourself. People who oppose you, or who just don’t want to get in the productive zone of work, will use flattery as a positive-seeming trigger to impede your exercise of leadership.
It Takes Practice to Manage Your Vulnerabilities and Triggers
Managing vulnerabilities and triggers starts with self-awareness. It’s relatively easy to slow down, reflect on a past behavior, and notice in the here-and-now how you typically respond to that trigger or work to cover up that vulnerability.
But it can’t stop there. We each need to discover our own way of mindfully anticipating triggers and vulnerabilities. Only then can we work with them, work around them, or call reinforcements to help us navigate them. Once we’ve learned to notice a trigger as it arises, we are better placed to replace our typical unskillful response with a more purposeful, productive one.