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“Vulnerability is allowing someone in so far that they could hurt you, but they also give you everything.” Freehan, Water Bound

This past week I had the opportunity to lead a group of business owners on an all-day leadership retreat. The objective was to challenge them to embrace the possibility within their life and the daily steps required to advance them (and others) forward.

In order to dive into the event, we began with a challenging question. Having no idea how they might answer it, but knowing that the only way to get a lot from individuals at the end of the day is to challenge them to provide a lot throughout the day, I asked:

“If you really knew me, you’d know ________ .”

I told them they may answer by sharing “my favorite color is purple” or “I believe in unicorns” or “I am afraid of clowns”…. But expected they’d go a bit deeper than that because a foundational component of leadership is vulnerability.

The first gentleman hesitated – and then stood to speak. (The others thanked him because they were thrilled they didn’t have to go first!) He shared, “Most people who know me consider me somewhat invincible and very put buttoned up. But if you really knew me you’d know that I am actually fragile and VERY much a softy.”

He sat down. The others stood and shared:

  • That I am hyper sensitive to the way my kids, friends, and employees treat one another because of the way I was treated as a child.
  • I have a void in my life because of my inability to have children.
  • I have the ability to give and receive love freely.
  • I am a mother today of a five year old because four years ago my brother and his wife died in a car accident.
  • I am very honest and dependable…maybe even to a fault!
  • My Dad is my hero..
  • My Grandma raised me, was my best friend, and I miss her terribly.
  • That my dad’s suicide when I was 10 crushed me as a little girl, but has shaped me as a loving woman.
  • I am funny …. But no one knows it because I am shy.

The final gentleman stood and offered: “If you knew me well, you’d know that when I was 7, my father was murdered and left my mom and me with nothing. We were incredibly poor. Desolate. But I’ve come to realize that my life curses have always become my life blessings. Always.”

My friend, here is why I share this story with you: this sharing took place not around a candle at a self-help conference. This took place around a boardroom with some of the most successful business owners in the world.

These men and women understand that great leadership in all facets of life is the byproduct of a bold, selfless, vulnerable heart. The type of heart that knows the pain of enduring adversity, rising above it, and sharing unique talents, stories and encouragement with others.

We are all starved for this type of authentic leadership.

These individuals have grown successful businesses and lives in this manner. Perhaps we should consider modeling vulnerable leadership in our relationships with our families, our employers, our patients, our students, our spouses … and ourselves?

When you are willing to let others in so close that they have the ability to hurt you, you’ve also chosen to let them in so close that they may provide everything you need. By living courageous vulnerability you step forward toward living up to the fullness of your promise.

The really cool part: Those fortunate enough to know you will get caught in your wake and begin stepping toward living up to the fullness of their promise, too!

John O’Leary

Thank you readers for the incredible response to the survey! Because of several hundred responses I have a much better idea of where you are, what you’re looking for, and how Rising Above can further assist as you live up to the fullness of your promise. Here is the video that was created to assist you in living your best year yet:

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