May 28, 2019
Audience Engagement

The Strongest Executive Leaders Embrace Vulnerability

Why The C-Suite Should Embrace, Not Discourage, Vulnerability

There are countless unique styles of leadership, some more effective than others. It can be incredibly difficult to draw certain lines, especially for executives who’ve risen in the company ranks.

At what point does a person stop being a “colleague” and become a “boss”? Even at the senior level, you’re still working with others, collaborating, valuing each other’s inputs.

Where do the walls go up? How do you create a relationship that’s mutually respectful while still recognizing seniority? The nuances of becoming a leader can be so tricky that many people ultimately opt for what feels like the safest solution: No emotions.

The only permissible emotions are related to work itself: Excitement over meeting a goal, distress over a deal gone bad, nervousness over a high-stakes meeting. It’s restricting, but for many leaders, that’s what feels most comfortable. But sometimes comfort is a cripple.

When we sat down with Matt Emerzian, founder and CEO of Every Monday Matters, we were taken by how candid he was about his own humanity. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise, since the crux of his nonprofit is about truthfulness and authenticity.

Even so, it’s rare to hear a CEO open up about his own history with depression and anxiety, and that makes it all the more powerful. And it’s incredibly important for employees to hear.

Should you spill your life story to anyone in earshot? Of course not. Balance is key, and Matt demonstrates that perfectly.

Bosses Gain Trust When They Display Vulnerability

Without going into detail, he recalled being “exposed to this other side of life that’s a little darker and scarier, more real.

What it did for me is it brought this awareness and empathy and compassion in me.” The fact is, he continued, “there are so many people out there going through stuff. We all have our stuff.”

You likely can’t sit down one-on-one with each of your employees and do an emotional deep-dive -- and that’s perfectly okay.

Innovations like digital signage allow employees of all experience levels to reflect, both privately and with peers, on their own humanity and that of their co-workers.

It’s important to show employees that, from a senior level, you recognize them as real, individual people, not numbers on a spreadsheet.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to help [your employees] grow as people? And as they grew, they could change their families and their communities?” Matt said. “That’s the opportunity you’re sitting on. You have access to all these lives you can change if you just embrace that honor.”

Sit with that word for a moment: Honor. Matt uses it in exchange for the phrase “corporate social responsibility,” or the idea that you have a nagging obligation to “be good.”

“I don’t see it as a responsibility. It’s a privilege,” he said. “That should be such a high priority. If you help them achieve that, your companys going to thrive, and the world’s gonna thrive.”

Yes, your employees have a job to do, and so do you. But that doesn’t make any of us less human. We’re all looking for a sense of connection and purpose.

By encouraging an appropriate amount of personal vulnerability, you’re improving your staff, your business and life beyond the office walls.