You don’t know it all. There are limits to your knowledge, ability and energy. And while the competitive nature of our culture, which often sneaks into our lives for those in leadership, and would have us to hide all of our weaknesses in fear, there is tremendous power in becoming vulnerable with people.
This article was written for church leaders but it just as applicable to business leaders and leaders in general. Deciding to become vulnerable is risky. As church leaders (business leaders), there will be people in our congregations (businesses) that don’t want us to be human. They would prefer that we wear a halo and pretend we’re never tempted to sin in the same ways they are. They feel safer if we, as spiritual leaders, are immune to the crass realities of life.
But when we hide our weaknesses, three big problems arise:
1. Our weaknesses get worse, feeding off the shame and secrecy.
2. We become dishonest and hypocritical.
3. The truth inevitably comes out, and people are disillusioned as a result.
So is bearing our vulnerability worth the risk? Absolutely. Here are some important reasons vulnerability is a forgotten virtue of great leadership:
1. It’s emotionally healthy. Maintaining an image of perfection requires enormous amounts of emotional energy. One of the reasons we sometimes get so stressed-out and depressed is because we’re working so hard to stay behind the facade and keep everyone convinced that we’re strong.
If you are worried about your image, you are heading for burnout. Keeping people happy and impressing others is terribly exhausting, and it’s always temporary. Eventually, people get to know our weaknesses all at once.
Being real and vulnerable, on the other hand, is liberating. It’s freeing. In fact, it’s really the only way to live. James 5:16 says, “Confess your faults to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much.“ We need to confess our sins to God to be forgiven, but we also need to talk about our weaknesses with others to find healing.
In fact, some faults won’t budge until you confess them to others.
2. It’s spiritually empowering. James also says, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b). It is impossible to lead in ministry without the grace of God. And how do you find the grace you need? You find it by humbling yourself before God and others.
Remember, pride prevents power.
3. It’s relationally attractive. Everybody is wearing a mask, and it’s what we expect others to do as well. When we choose to throw our masks away, we surprise people with our authenticity. Being real is the fastest way to endear yourself to others.
We tend to love people who area real, honest, humble and vulnerable, and we tend to despise people who are deceitful, arrogant and hypocritical. Paul told the Thessalonian believers, “So having great love toward you, we were willing to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you were dear to us” (1 Thess. 2:8).
When you share your strengths, you create competition. But when you share your weaknesses, you create community. You let people know “We’re all in this together.”
Pastors are often incredibly lonely people. Why? I believe it’s in large part because they’re so afraid of the cost of being vulnerable.
4. It’s a mark of leadership. We only follow leaders we trust. The first requirement for effective leadership is credibility, and the more honest you are, the more credible you become.
Real leaders lead by example. They go first. If your desire is that the church, group or organisation you’re leading be a place where people are open, you must be the first to open up.
You must decide whether you want to impress people (which you can do from a distance) or influence people (which you can only do up close).
5. It increases the impact of your preaching/leading. The concept of preaching from our vulnerability is something I’ve written about before because it’s a really big idea. In the previous generation of great preachers, we usually asked what’s the most powerful way to preach this? Now, we should be asking what’s the most personal way to preach this?
You will always be more effective as a personal witness and a storyteller than as a skilled orator. As you preach and lead, try to answer these questions:
- What struggles and weaknesses should I share with others?
- What progress am I making that others could learn from?
- What am I currently learning, especially from my failures?
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.
For the original article, visit pastors.com.