Discover more from The Leaders Letters - From Danny Denhard @ Focus
Leaders Letters 173 - Leading With Vulnerability
5 Questions With Author, Podcaster & Business Leader Jacob Morgan
Dear leaders, a special welcome to the wave of new subscribers, it’s great to have yoy on board. As it is now Q4 and the ramp-up to the festive periods. In the busiest times of the year leaders can over-index on performance and not on our people, so this week I interviewed Jacob Morgan, it so happens his book goes on sale today and it is a brilliant read. I was lucky to receive an early copy and it’s a must-read for modern-day leaders.
A little about Jacob: Jacob is a professionally trained futurist, speaker, and the best-selling author of 5 books including his most recent, Leading with Vulnerability: Unlock Your Greatest Superpower to Transform Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization and is the host of Great Leadership With Jacob Morgan. Jacob’s work has been endorsed by the CEOs of: Unilever, Cisco, Mastercard, Nestle, Best Buy, SAP, KPMG, T-Mobile, Audi and Kaiser just to name a few so you are about to learn a number of leadership lessons below:
What are the five main takeaways from your latest book leading with vulnerability?
And how can a leader apply these takeaways over the next month?
Vulnerability for leaders is not the same as it for everyone else. As a leader your words have more weight and influence so what you say and what you do reverberates much further and louder. This means that if you keep showing up to work talking about failures, challenges, and things you are struggling with, eventually people will start to wonder why you are in a leadership role and you will undermine your credibility. Be mindful of what you share and who you share with. This builds into the second point below.
Don’t be vulnerable at work, especially if you are in a leadership position. Instead, lead with vulnerability which means combining competence with connection. For example, instead of just admitting to a mistake at work, talk about what you learned and what you are going to do in the future to make sure the mistake doesn’t happen again. I call this The Vulnerable Leader Equation.
Practice this by making sure you are always bringing together competence and connection into your interactions, business decisions, and engagements.
The people you work with don’t just want to know what you are thinking but also how you are feeling about a situation or a decision. Leaders are great at sharing their rationale but are poor at sharing how something makes them feel. Being able to share this is what creates connection and trust. Take a look at something called “the feelings wheel” and instead of just saying you feel “good” or “fine,” try to get better at naming the real emotion you are feeling or experiencing.
Turn negative experiences into learning moments. Vulnerability means that you are sharing or doing something to emotionally expose yourself. Sometimes this will yield great outcomes and other times it won’t. For example, someone might use something you say against you to keep you from growing in your career. Instead of using these as reasons for why you should never be vulnerable again, focus on what you learned from the situation, about yourself, and about the other person that will allow you to do a better job of leading with vulnerability in the future.
Climb the vulnerability mountain. The cover of my book is a person getting ready to climb a mountain. The beginning of the climb is always easy but the higher up you go the more challenging it becomes, the more you might get hurt and take the wrong path. However, the more beautiful the vistas become, the farther out you can see, the more clarity you get, and the more people you meet on your journey. Identify what basecamp looks like for you, in other words what’s something you can do today that gets you going up that mountain. Maybe it’s admitting to a mistake and sharing some lessons learned. Then, define what sits at the very top of the peak for you, something scary you can’t imagine doing. Once you have the base and the peak, start climbing day by day, week by week, and month by month!
Q. What interview question would you ask a leadership candidate to see if they lead with vulnerability? If I could only ask one question it would be:
You have to confront your leader about a mistake you made on a client project. What do you say?
Q. I call the first step to vulnerable leadership “taking the corporate armour off”, what is the first recommendation for the biggest sceptics to show their new leadership skills?
It’s true, leaders need to remove the armor but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have thick skin. As I write in my book:
“There’s an assumption that armoring up means not showing emotion but that’s not entirely true. Armoring up also means avoiding situations and circumstances that would require you to show any emotion or be human to begin with. Some leaders do this by shutting down difficult conversations, avoiding certain topics, or using their power and authority to get others to bend to their will without questioning authority. Bad leaders never take the hits because they don’t even put on the uniform to join their team on the field. Great leaders take the hits for their people and keep charging everyone towards the end zone. That's what having thick skin is all about.”
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to leading with vulnerability is assuming that once they say or do something, that there is nothing else that can be done. It’s like taking a short in basketball, if the ball doesn’t go in, it’s not game over, you can get the rebound and shoot the ball again. The same thing is true in leadership. I recently had a heated discussion with a friend of mine about making time for us to hang out which had previously been a challenge. We talked on the phone and after I shared how disappointed I felt and how hard I was trying I noticed he became quiet. I could tell that what I said didn’t land well and was making him very angry. Instead of letting things die, I followed up and said, “you sound really upset by what I just said, tell me how you interpreted everything.” To which he replied he felt that I was acting dismissive and not appreciating the challenges he was going through. Long-story short, we figured everything out because I was able to follow up after getting a bad response.
Q. Unlocking your superpower is my favourite theme in the book. How do you recommend leaders unlock their own superpower and how would you recommend they help their teams to unlock theirs?
For leaders, you have to start. This is one of the points I had above in regards to climbing the vulnerability mountain. Reading, studying, and examining things will only get you so far, eventually you have to start taking those steps. Build your vulnerability mountain and remember to bring both connection (vulnerability) and competence (leadership) to every interaction and engagement you have. If you want to encourage your team to lead with vulnerability then it has to start with you as the leader.
Q. Your podcast has a number of brilliant guests and is a must-listen for me personally. What has surprised you by interviewing so many leaders?
Thanks! What surprised me the most is that leaders are just like everyone else. I’ve had CEOs and billionaires from some of the world’s most successful companies on my program and they have struggle with the same things that you and I struggle with. They all have families, insecurities, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and they want to be seen and heard, just like we all do. At the end of the day, we are all just a bunch of imperfect people.
Here is one of my favourite episodes of Jacob’s podcast with Seth Godin ↓
Connect With Jacob and his leadership content:
Connect on LinkedIn (where he shares a number of brilliant sections of the book)
This week’s focus action is to follow Jacob’s recommendation climb that mountain and lead with vulnerability.
Have a great week and next week I will land in your inbox with a leadership storytelling masterclass.
Get in touch with feedback on leaders letters or if you’d like to collaborate with me. Hit reply or email me directly on » email@example.com