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In the realm of the professional arena, authenticity and vulnerability are often overlooked or undervalued qualities. However, today’s rapidly evolving work environment demands that these become essential components of effective leadership and meaningful relationships.  Plus, there’s a distinct professional payoff to embracing authenticity and vulnerability at work.

Vulnerability

Vulnerability, is the willingness to expose our true thoughts, feelings, and experiences, even when it involves uncertainty, risk, or emotional exposure. Contrary to popular belief, vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but rather a strength. It requires immense courage, resilience, and authenticity to embrace vulnerability and lean into discomfort.

Being vulnerable means opening up. A lot of people think that being vulnerable results in others taking advantage of you – and yes, that’s certainly a possibility. But only when you let them. Being vulnerable doesn’t mean that you’ve let go of your boundaries.  Vulnerability is a personal choice to openly share your challenges and struggles, not caring what others think of you.

Authenticity

Traditionally, authenticity is the practice of being true to oneself, aligning our actions with our values, beliefs, and personality.  We often hear about it in terms of ‘removing the mask of inauthenticity’. It involves presenting a genuine and transparent image of oneself, without pretense or façade.  Authenticity is rooted in knowing yourself and fostering intentional self-awareness.  It’s a practice that takes…practice.  As Brené Brown would say, it’s a choice to show up as who we really are, every single day.

Authenticity in Professional Spaces

Authenticity at work demands a psychologically safe space, trust, belonging, inclusion and strong relationships where we can feel comfortable showing up as our full selves.  Often, it’s about really stepping outside your comfort zone.  But authenticity at work doesn’t have to be:

  • telling your whole life story
  • forcing deep personal connections
  • sharing unfiltered opinions or perspectives
  • sacrificing boundaries
  • being an open book for everyone to read

Rather, it’s a choice to show up exactly as we are, acting with integrity and in alignment with what we know to be true about ourselves.

 

How Authenticity & Vulnerability are Professional Payoffs

In the professional world, authenticity and vulnerability can have profound effects on individual and organizational success. Here’s why they matter:

  1. Predictability is Attractive: When you show up with authenticity & vulnerability, people know what they can expect from you and they like that.  When you’re your authentic self, you attract team members, colleagues and clients that like and trust you.
  2. Enhancing Leadership Effectiveness: By leading with authenticity, leaders demonstrate integrity, humility, and empathy – essential qualities for effective leadership. Authentic leaders inspire trust, loyalty and engagement in their team members. When leaders are willing to be vulnerable and share their struggles and failures, it creates a culture of psychological safety where team members feel valued, supported, and empowered to take risks and innovate.
  3. Building Trust and Rapport: Authenticity fosters trust and rapport among colleagues, team members, and the organization as a whole. When individuals show up as their genuine selves, it creates an atmosphere of openness, honesty and mutual respect. People are more likely to trust and connect with those who are authentic and transparent, enhancing feelings of connectedness and leading to stronger relationships.

  4. Fostering Innovation and Creativity: In environments where authenticity and vulnerability are encouraged, individuals feel safe to express their ideas, take risks, and think outside the box. Authenticity cultivates a culture of psychological safety where people feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and exploring new possibilities. This fuels innovation, creativity, and problem-solving within organizations.
  5. Heightening Engagement & Performance:  Leaders who show up with authenticity and vulnerability foster teams who embrace these same ideals.  Authenticity and vulnerability require strength and courage which naturally foster confidence.  When we create teams who are naturally confident they connect easily, engaging with one another freely and openly.
  6. Promoting Personal Growth and Resilience: Embracing vulnerability requires a ‘stretch’ of our comfort zone and encourages personal growth and resilience. When individuals are willing to acknowledge their limitations and learn from their mistakes, self-acceptance soars and they become more adaptable and resourceful in the face of challenge. Authenticity empowers individuals to embrace both their imperfections and their vulnerabilities while simultaneously striving for growth.
  7. Attracting and Retaining Talent: Organizations that prioritize authenticity and vulnerability are more attractive to top talent. Employees are drawn to workplaces where they can be authentic, feel supported, and have opportunities for growth and development. By creating a culture that values authenticity and vulnerability, organizations can attract and retain diverse talent who seek ‘belonging’ and are committed to the organization.

 

Final Thoughts

Authenticity and vulnerability are payoffs in the professional world.  They are clearly not weaknesses, but rather strengths that have the power to transform individuals, teams, and organizations. By embracing authenticity and vulnerability in the professional realm, we can foster trust, innovation, resilience, and personal growth, ultimately leading to greater success and fulfillment in our careers and beyond.

 

 

 

Sources

  • Metin, U. Baran, Taris, Toon W., Peeters, Maria C.W., vanBeek, Iiona and Van den Bosch, Ralph  “Authenticity at work – A job-demands resources perspective”.  Journal of Managerial Psychology Vol 31 No.2, 2016, pp. 483-489 Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. (Click to View

     

  • Gordon, Gabrielle E. “Vulnerable Leadership:  Breaking Down Walls to Build Up Firms”, Marriott Student Review: Vol.5, Article 1 (Click to View

     

  • Kernis, Michael H. and Goldman, Brian M. “A Multicomponent Conceptualization of Authenticity:  Theory and Research”, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 38 pp 283-357 2006, (Click to View

     

  • Kraus, Michael W., Chen, Serena and Keltner, Dacher.  ” The power to be me:  Power elevates self-concept consistency and authenticity”  Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 47, Issue 5, 2011, pp 974-980 (Click to View

Katrina Murphy

Katrina Murphy

Katrina Murphy is a Professional Intuitive Mindset and Confidence Coach in Ontario, Canada, serving clients across Canada and internationally. Katrina helps professionals to change the relationship that they have with themselves so they can reconnect both in their relationships and at work. She’s been featured in various publications and is the creator of the Power-Passion-Purpose Framework.

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