As a leader, people are always looking at you. Whether it is for guidance, feedback, or simply for validation, you are a trusted source. By modeling behaviors (good and bad) you are by default influencing and educating others, especially the people in your team. This means your body language, verbal language, and decision-making is being watched and absorbed regularly.
With your ability to have a positive influence as a leader, you can help people understand it is ok to ask for help if needed and it is ok to be vulnerable and not always have the answers. Being remote can make this especially challenging as you do not have the visual and verbal cues, so you need to rely on the strength of your relationships and trust people to be open and honest.
How can you know that this will happen? One way to do this is to lead by example and be vulnerable yourself. Vulnerability to you, can be seen as courage to others (your team), and by teaching them it is ok to be vulnerable, you are teaching them to be courageous. In this article we will share a few ways to lead with vulnerability:
- Ask and receive help
- Admit your mistakes
This is a tool that means you have to open yourself up to encourage others to do the same. How can you do this? When going into a meeting (we recommend trying this on a 1:1 basis first) open up the discussion with a personal, authentic, anecdote. It is crucial that you are authentic and not superficial, people will be able to sense the difference, and you do not want to add any additional barriers. Try starting with something like:
- Today I am feeling challenged by…
- Today I learned that…
- Today I am dealing with...
It doesn’t have to be private or revealing, it just needs to be genuine and human.
Ask and receive help
In the article, “The Neuroscience of Trust” Paul J. Zak explains that “when an individual asks for help, the oxytocin levels of the person receiving the request increases. (Oxytocin is a brain chemical that is associated with, among other things, social bonding.) In other words, when a person demonstrates vulnerability, others are socially inclined to assist.”
As leaders, most of us like to help others, but often we have a difficult time asking for and receiving help ourselves. Requesting help can be perceived, especially by us, as an admission of weakness or an acknowledgment that we’re not capable of doing something. However, all of us need help and support — and in some cases, we need a lot of it. Being the kind of leader who is comfortable enough with yourself and the people around you to admit when you don’t know something, can’t do something, or simply need help in making something happen, is not a sign of weakness; it’s both a sign of strength and an opportunity to empower others in an authentic way. The key here is not only asking but being open to accepting and receiving help.
Questions to help practice asking for help:
- What are your thoughts on this, I would really appreciate your opinion?
- I don’t know the solution to this problem, are you able to help, please?
- I haven’t done this type of task in a while, would you be willing to help me?
Admit your mistakes
We all make mistakes, especially as leaders when we take on more responsibility. The more willing we are to admit and own our mistakes (not make excuses, point fingers, or avoid responsibility) the more others will trust us and want to follow our lead. Taking responsibility, apologizing, and making amends for the mistakes we make are not always easy things to do, but they’re essential for us to have true credibility with the people around us.
- I apologize for that oversight, I should have paid more attention. Next time I will be sure to spend more time checking the final version.
- As the leader of the [team] I should have provided more guidance as this was your first time working on this project, I apologize for not being more available.
- I was having an off day yesterday, I should have shared this with you all to avoid this from happening. I will do better next time, I am sorry.
By leading by example in an authentic and vulnerable way, you will start to see your team reflect the same behaviors. In turn, they will begin to feel comfortable to reach out when they need help, and also recognize when their teammates might need help and support each other. The benefits will continue to flow throughout the team and company, building stronger and more efficient high-performing teams.
P.s. Also don’t forget to laugh along the way, remember we (yes even leaders) are human after all!