HR Analytics

Control vs. Vulnerability: What is the next step-change in leadership and culture?

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Leaders who have learned to be vulnerable have a stronger impact on people and business results. What is a vulnerable leader? It is a leader who has accepted that she does not have all the answers – and more importantly, that she must not have all the answers all the time, writes 

I like to ask my clients what their leaders are missing the most in their development. What cultural attribute would make their world completely different while at the same time delivering business results surpassing anything they have ever dreamed of. Their answer: Agility, speed, accountability, innovation and customer focus. My answer: Vulnerability.

Many of today’s senior managers and leaders have grown-up in a world where you needed to be excellent technically, manage people well, know how to respond to customers, fix problems fast and have all the answers. With an increased focus on results, on achieving profit and quick growth, managers and leaders have seen their personal accountability increase. Their response has been to dial-up control.  Control is a protection mechanism. It reduces the fear of failure, fear of making a mistake, and fear of not knowing – because to be seen as successful (please note the use of “be seen as”), you were often required to have all the answers. What this has created in many businesses is a culture of fear, command and control, perfectionism, and hierarchy. The outcomes of this kind of culture is disempowerment, lack of trust, complexity and in the end, a negative impact on customer outcomes and business results.

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