How To Harness The Power of Vulnerability
I like being powerful at work. Earlier in my career that looked like sharp jackets, red lipstick and knock-your-socks-off performances whenever I was called upon to present, lead or influence in any way.
Working at the time for one of the world’s top brand companies, that form of power worked well. Not only did it fit my company's culture, it got great results.
And it got me noticed. I’m sure it was a key aspect to my being promoted several times and to being given Mission Impossible type challenges that no one else dared touch.
Which was kind of cool. But boy was it exhausting!
After an experience of burn out I decided there had to be another way. I did a ton of psychotherapy both as a client and a student. I saw that while my previous way to channel power got results, it was also quite masculine and aggressive. Almost superhuman. Part of me still wanted to be able to influence and have impact. But to be able to do so in a feminine and human way.
These words came easy, but in truth it has taken me several years to figure what that looks like for me.
I tried a variety of things. Grew my hair out of a short, spiky cut and wore softer clothes. Slowed my voice down. Ditched my corporate job and ultimately became a coach via a few years of being a practicing psychotherapist cum business consultant.
And even still it didn’t hit me till yesterday morning that the real essence of my brand of power has become one of allowing myself to be vulnerable. Yesterday, I ran a VIP workshop for a small group of clients and friends, and dared to do so without PowerPoint, and without having rehearsed myself into oblivion. To trust that, by now I knew what I was talking about, and that I'd know in the moment the right thing to say or do. The result for me was that I just felt a whole lot more able to be present to the people who were there and to what they had to say.
Was it nerve-wracking to just turn up and be? You bet it was. There was a challenge the day before around my allowing something to gestate in me without it needing to take form in the moment. Sounds wild, I know. But that's all part of it too. Allowing oneself to be a little crazy from time to time. Knowing that that is sometimes the basis of true creativity. Previously, I may have let my nerves hoodwink me into doing endless preparation. Not that day.
What I increasingly notice is that power through vulnerability has a different kind of feel to it. It has way less pressure. It wipes me out much, much less. In fact when I stepped away from the event yesterday I was buzzing from the energy of the conversation. Years before I'd just have been waiting for the adrenal collapse to kick in.
And I noticed that by allowing myself to be vulnerable, I by default allowed it in others too. Considering it was a short session, people shared deeply of themselves. I also know, both from some comments yesterday, and some emails I've received since, that people took away some key insights.
How have I harnessed that? There’s really only one key way to do it:
Drop the need to be anything other than who you are. In fact, see how it doesn’t serve you to try molding yourself to someone else’s version of what good looks like.
Be real. This takes time. In fact I'd go so far as to say that it's a lifetime's quest. I know. But decide that it's a quest you'll wholeheartedly embrace because it's at the service, not just of you, but of everyone else whose lives you touch.
The biggest thing you have going for you on this quest is what I might call your inner gap detector. It knows when you are out of alignment; out of integrity with who you truly are. Use the gap detector to help you tweak and polish your way.
Most of the time you’ll surprise yourself by seeing that the more you turn up as warts-and-all you, the more effortlessly you'll perform.
Sure, sometimes you’ll get things wrong. But when you turn up from a human place, people relate to that feeling. They forgive the little imperfections.
And that’s powerful indeed!