Vulnerability isn’t just a “nice to have” trait for leaders; it is essential to being an effective Christian leader. But why does it matter and how can we practice it in our everyday lives?
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In this episode, Holly and I are kicking off a new series about traits we need to develop as Christian leaders. We originally shared a list of things we felt leaders needed back in episode 2 of the podcast, but now we’re going to do a deeper dive into some specific character traits for leaders.
Today we’re starting with the trait of vulnerability. We believe vulnerability will help you be a more effective leader, so we’re sharing 4 reasons why it matters, as well as what it looks like and how to practice it as a Christian woman.
What is Vulnerability?
There are some misconceptions about vulnerability, and it often has a negative connotation. Vulnerable means : “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded” and it can also mean “open to attack or damage.”
Vulnerability implies risk, but it also implies imperfection and weakness. Brene Brown describes this as “the feeling we get during times of uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure.”
So we can see why maybe when we say that vulnerability is a good thing in leadership, it can seem a bit counterintuitive.
Why is Vulnerability Important for Christian Leaders?
- Vulnerability is integral to trust. And trust is essential to leadership.
Brene Brown says this based on her research: “We need to trust to be vulnerable, and we need to be vulnerable in order to build trust.”
If you try to lead without vulnerability, you’re going to have a really hard time building trust.
Your team needs to know that they can trust you. And one of the ways to do this is to develop an atmosphere of vulnerability. And who sets the tone and creates the atmosphere of a home, a church, a small group, an organization? It’s the leader!
- Vulnerability is necessary for new ideas and change.
“Without vulnerability there is no creativity or innovation.” – Brene Brown
Have you ever been in a meeting where you’re supposed to be brainstorming ideas for a new project… and then you throw out your idea, and your leader shoots it down immediately? This doesn’t feel good, and it’s not creating an atmosphere of vulnerability.
When you share an idea, that takes vulnerability. You’re opening yourself up to criticism.
- Vulnerability acknowledges that we are emotional beings.
Sometimes we think we have to compartmentalize our life and leave our feelings at home as leaders. We have to stuff or ignore what’s really going on below the surface.
But vulnerability allows us to recognize that we are emotional beings and it’s actually more productive when we acknowledge how we are feeling about a particular situation or problem rather than try to pretend that it’s not even happening.
It takes vulnerability to acknowledge to another person how you are really feeling, but when you do, it is so powerful. It can transform you.
- Vulnerability is supported in Scripture.
James 5:16 (ESV): Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Is there anything more vulnerable than confessing your sins? As believers, we are commanded to do this, and this requires vulnerability.
Other examples in Scripture:
- John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.”
- The story of Joseph–when his brothers come to Egypt, he weeps several times.
Our vulnerability and our weakness should not be seen as a negative in our leadership or our faith— it should point us to Christ and cause us to rely on Him and lean into his power and strength.
What Vulnerability Looks Like
Vulnerability does not mean disclosure. It doesn’t mean that you tell your team all the details about everything you have going on, or that you break down emotionally in front of them on a regular basis.
As leaders, boundaries are essential and we still need to have some guardrails on what and how we share.
Jesus demonstrated boundaries in his leadership, and he had certain people with whom he was more open and shared more with than others. This is a great example for us when it comes to our own vulnerability.
We should exercise wisdom in terms of who we share with, when, and how much. But even so, we still need to practice vulnerability in our leadership situations.
Let’s take leading a small group for example. How can you create an atmosphere of vulnerability within the group? Here are a few things we have put into place in small groups we’ve led:
- Clear guidelines such as confidentiality and no advice giving within the group.
- As the leader, share examples of things you have gone through in the past that were difficult, but perhaps that you are no longer going through at the moment.
- When sharing current struggles, you can still share without disclosing lots of details.
- Listen and validate other people’s challenges.
- Allow emotions to be present.
Another time you may need to practice vulnerability is within work situations. Here’s what it might look like in those situations:
- Be willing to give constructive feedback when its hard
- In times of transition, acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers. Don’t pretend to have it all together if you don’t.
How to Practice Vulnerability as a Christian Woman
It’s important for you as a leader to have a place where you can share positives and negatives of your life besides with the people you are leading. How can you grow in this area if it’s a struggle for you?
Some of us are naturally more open and others are a bit more closed off. It could be your personality or past experiences of being hurt that have led you to being afraid of sharing about a struggle or a sin.
Here are some practical tips for practicing vulnerability:
- Find your safe people
- Ask (and be willing to answer) hard questions
- Start small
- Recognize that there is always a risk of getting hurt
After listening to this episode, take one step towards being vulnerable with someone else this week. Share in the Purposeful Leadership FB group when you do it!
Resources & Links:
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
- The Goodness of Vulnerability – article from Intervarsity
- The Part Of Vulnerability No One Talks About – article from Relevant
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