“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen,” writes researcher and storyteller Brené Brown in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.
As a leader, I firmly believe authenticity cannot exist without vulnerability. There is no such thing as a perfect leader, but many of us hesitate to expose our imperfections—to vulnerably show our teams our true selves, warts and all. When we are vulnerable, we put ourselves on the line and risk getting hurt by others. Many of us are afraid of connecting with people on a deeper level because, at this level, our true selves are revealed.
But here’s the truth: We were created to connect and form strong relationships with others. The benefits far outweigh any risk we could ever face. By sharing our vulnerabilities, we automatically give others permission to do the same. As I write this, I’m reminded of a line from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love, in which she writes, ”When we let our lights shine, we automatically give others permission to do the same.”
Part of the challenge that comes with being vulnerable is we become fearful we will be called out in an area where we don’t shine as brightly as we would like. Subsequently, the very strong negative emotion of shame gets woven into the web of harboring feelings of inadequacy. Don’t allow the feeling of shame hold you back from being vulnerable. As Brené puts it in her book, Braving the Wilderness, “The definition of vulnerability is uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. But vulnerability is not weakness; it's our most accurate measure of courage.”
As organizational structures become flat, the hierarchical barriers that once separated team members from leaders are fast becoming extinct. This helps to foster a closer relationship among everyone as the chain of command gets shorter and results in individuals who are more trusting of each other as they work closely together.