Now that I have daughters, I thought it would be fun to watch the Wonder Woman series with them. When we started watching it, however, I realized that there was a lot that I didn’t remember about the series. I didn’t remember that the entire series was set during World War II (which led to a quick need to figure out how to explain it in an age-appropriate way). I also forgot about all the vulnerabilities that Wonder Woman had – such as the need to cover and hide who she really was and the rejection and longing for a man that didn’t see the love she had for him.
As a side note, there were also some strengths I didn’t see she had that I now appreciate, such as the fact that she didn’t need “credit” or recognition for all she did, and the fact that she used “truth,” as in the lasso of, as a weapon. This truth helped her hold people accountable for their crimes and actions.
I only remembered a glorified version of Wonder Woman. I didn’t see her vulnerabilities and didn’t realize her strongest “weapons” weren’t her powerful kicks and invisible plane, but rather her ability to build relationships, earn the trust of her allies, and make “villans” tell the truth.
Wonder Woman isn’t the only superhero with a vulnerability. Superman, for example, had a weakness of kryponite. Take a moment to think of your favorite superhero. What were some of his/her vulnerabilities?
Now, think of a leader that has inspired you. Do you have a glorified version of him/her? Think more closely and see if you can remember vulnerabilities. Chances are you can – because, just as I realized when I reflected on my favorite superhero, great leaders are vulnerable.
If you think about the purpose of leadership, it’s to inspire. But most people can’t be inspired by something that is “unattainable” or by someone with whom they can’t relate. That vulnerability in your favorite superhero or leader makes them “relatable” to you. You listen and see them differently – you think, “maybe that can be me too,” even if that thought is unconscious. Even the prophets in most religions have vulnerability. Take Jesus for example – many people relate to him because of his “human” side. He got angry, just like we do. He questioned, just like we do. He liked hanging with friends, just like we do.
So if your favorite superhero and leaders have flaws, relieve yourself of the notion that you have to be perfect to be a good leader or good parent. What’s more important is that you’re authentic – and that means not being afraid of being vulnerable.
What’s the right balance of vulnerability? It’s different for each leader, team and family, but in general, here are some tips:
- You feel uncomfortable, but not awkward. If you don’t feel uncomfortable, you might not truly be sharing a vulnerability. But you shouldn’t feel awkward either – that could be a sign that you’re forcing it, and that means it’s not authentic. People will pick up on that and feel like you’re just “manipulating” them.
- It’s a “relevant” vulnerability. Know your audience. Know on what level it’s important to relate to them. For example, talking about “car problems” to a group of people that can’t afford cars doesn’t help them to relate to you.
- You share just enough to make your point. There’s a fine line between vulnerability and weakness. If you start to “over share” people will start to tune out and question your ability to recover from a challenge. This is true at work and at home. Only share enough to make your point.
- You share at just the right time. There is an art of timing when being vulnerable. Recognize when it’s important to share and not to share a vulnerability. There’s a time to connect, and then there’s a time when people need to see you at your strongest because they need a protector or guide. Share at the wrong time, and people won’t feel “secure.”
- You’re not sharing to “one-up” someone. This is really important. I’ve seen both leaders and parents listen to someone share something very personal, only to respond with a “that reminds me of the time that I….” or “If you think that’s bad….” If you start to think of your “one-up” story before someone else has finished sharing, stop yourself. First, you’re not fully listening to them. Second, let them have their moment. There will be a “right time” for you to share your story.
Being vulnerable isn’t a weakness – it makes you relatable and can be a strength. Embrace the imperfect leader and parent within you – you’re a superhero in your own right!