Episode 66: Leading With Vulnerability in Today's Modern Workplace
The nature of work is changing rapidly. With new technologies enabling remote and hybrid work environments, the dynamic between employers and employees continues to evolve. In recent years, the balance of power has shifted more towards employees, who now enjoy increased flexibility along with rising salaries and benefits.
However, with this shift comes potential risks, as work ethic expectations change and employees potentially take advantage of their increased influence. In this #shifthappens podcast episode, AvePoint Chief Brand Officer Dux Raymond Sy sat down with bestselling author and workplace futurist Jacob Morgan to discuss leading with vulnerability, maintaining a strong work ethic, and building trust on teams in today’s work environment.
The Changing Employer-Employee Dynamic
Dux and Jacob kicked off their wide-ranging conversation by reflecting on how the relationship between employers and employees has changed, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic. As Jacob observed, “It seems like employees want more and they want to do less, which drives me nuts.”
He pointed out trends like the “Sunday scaries” and “quiet quitting” which glorify doing the bare minimum at work. In Jacob’s view, the pendulum has swung too far in favor of employees taking advantage of increased flexibility and benefits. With many companies now going through layoffs and economic uncertainty rising, he believes there will be a rebalancing as employers regain more influence.
The Immigrant Mindset
As the son of immigrant parents, Jacob spoke passionately about maintaining a strong work ethic and not taking opportunities for granted. He criticized the “victim mentality” where people blame their employers or the system instead of taking responsibility for their own career growth.
Jacob referenced research showing companies often prefer hiring older workers due to their superior work ethic compared to younger employees. He argued today’s workers need more “grit” and “thick skin” rather than complaining about unsatisfactory jobs. The key is either performing well at your current job or finding a new opportunity better suited for you.
Leading with Vulnerability
However, Jacob also recognizes the importance of vulnerable, compassionate leadership in creating engaging workplaces. His newest book is called Leading with Vulnerability, and he explained the premise in detail during the podcast episode.
Vulnerability involves sharing struggles and exposing emotional risk. However, Jacob warned vulnerability alone can backfire in a business setting if you only expose gaps without also demonstrating competence. He introduced the “vulnerable leader equation”: Vulnerability + Leadership = Leading with Vulnerability.
When you share vulnerabilities at work, you should also showcase what you’re doing to learn from mistakes, develop skills, and close knowledge gaps. This builds confidence in your capabilities and trust on teams, whereas vulnerability alone can create perceptions of incompetence and weakness.
Leading with Vulnerability in Action
Jacob shared several examples illustrating how to lead with vulnerability in different workplace scenarios:
- Asked a question in a meeting you don't know: Don't just say "I don't know." Offer to research the issue and present back to the team.
- Made a mistake on a project: Don't just apologize. Explain what you learned and how you'll prevent repeats in the future.
- Have a personal challenge: Don't just vent about the problem. Share what steps you're taking to improve the situation.
- Got promoted and lack experience: Proactively seek coaching and training opportunities to close skill gaps.
By adding the competence piece after exposing vulnerabilities, leaders reassure their teams and organizations they are working to develop their capabilities. This helps create psychological safety and trust.
A few key themes stood out from my insightful conversation with Jacob:
- The employer-employee relationship is evolving, potentially requiring a rebalancing of power.
- Maintaining a strong work ethic and grit creates opportunities; complaining often backfires.
- Vulnerability builds connection, but competence builds confidence. Effective leaders combine the two.
- Look for opportunities to demonstrate competence when sharing vulnerabilities at work.
- Ask “what are you doing about it?” when employees share problems without solutions.
Times are changing quickly. As Jacob observed, we need leaders who connect with employees through vulnerability, while also driving results and developing their skills. By combining compassion and competence, today’s leaders can build trustworthy, resilient teams ready for the future of work. To learn more and get a copy of Leading With Vulnerability, visit leadwithvulnerability.com.
- Episode 68
- Episode 65
- Episode 64
- Episode 63
- Episode 61
- Episode 58
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