3 Ways To Be A Vulnerable Leader And Why It Pays Off In Spades

There’s an abundance of articles, books, podcasts, or even lectures on the qualities of a “good” executive. The most effective ways to lead focus on motivation, drive, execution, and charisma. They also promote confident, quick-thinking leaders who can get the support of their staff on decisions, as per Chris Byers, the Director for Formstack, an enterprise-grade secure productivity platform. He was instrumental in bringing the company to more than 250 customers and 320 employees across the globe. “I don’t think that all of these qualities can be employed to help grow a business effectively, but during the 13 years I’ve been Formstack’s chief executive, I’ve observed that one of the leadership traits stands out over the rest in the form of vulnerability” Byers insists.

Why CEOs Face Problems with Vulnerability

Business leaders aren’t exempt from mental health concerns simply because they’re in roles of accountability. Managers, CEOs, and bosses at every level suffer from the same weaknesses that we all face as humans, regardless of our social and job responsibilities. Indeed mental health problems among C-suite executives soared in 2022—70% contemplating quitting their jobs to pursue a position that would improve their well-being.

However, revealing personal issues is a significant issue for executives. They are afraid that if they indicate their vulnerabilities, their employees and colleagues will view them individually negatively and consider them “weak” and unproductive. The research on leadership is the opposite. When leaders of businesses share their emotions, admit to errors, and acknowledge their shortcomings the employees perceive them as more reliable, trustworthy, and competent. The vulnerability of leadership increases the level of engagement, productivity, and motivation increases confidence in employees’ psychological security and reduces turnover. It also contributes to the bottom line of the business. Thus, the risk of “quiet quits,” “productivity fear,” as well as “quiet firing” turn into old-fashioned.

Chris Byers calls himself the insecure CEO of Formstack

How to Be A Great Will Hunter

“By showing vulnerability and sharing my struggles, I’m in a position to create deeper connections with my employees, not only being the chief executive of the business but also as an individual leader who is concerned about the employees and our company,” Byers told me. “In my journey to be the best leader I can be, I’ve identified three most important things.”

  1. Accept your mistakes. Earlier this year, Byers sent out a note to each Formstack employee. It was a note that he would later send to his 5,000-plus LinkedIn followers. “This note outlined everything from my anxieties and disappointments in the past few years to the intense fatigue I was experiencing,” he said. “It was not the inspirational speech of a confident CEO encouraging his staff to rise and win that you imagine. It was an open look at my feelings and the areas I believed my professional and personal life lacked. It also highlighted the areas I’d like to change and the areas I had to work on to improve and improve my leadership skills.” He admitted that we all have areas to improve, and he believes that when CEOs are open about the areas they can improve and are honest about their areas of improvement, it will create an impact on employees and the overall performance of organizations.
  2. Be honest about the state of your mental well-being. Every person was affected by the epidemic in some way, in some way or another, Byers admits, and his case of him was not an exception. “I wanted to make sure that Formstack employees were comfortable with sharing their struggles caused by the uncertainty and moved towards coming up with solutions to improve their lives. While our society slowly begins to discuss mental health issues openly, it’s uncommon for leaders to share their own experiences of problems with mental health, especially at work. I thought the best way to go against the norm and show leadership is to be honest about my personal experiences. Therefore, I spoke about something personal to me. Something personal. Something deeply. Some might find it strange to share with their most intimate acquaintances (let not even all the 300 or more people they work with). I shared the information I had learned about dysthymia, which the Mayo Clinic describes as a low mood that lasts for more than two years and, at minimum, two other symptoms of depression. I mentioned a lack of enthusiasm for normal things, a lack of hope or sleep issues, and low concentration. Although I haven’t been diagnosed as having this condition, I’ve been in a state of depression frequently over the past two years and think the same could be common for many of our employees. I also discussed the steps I’m taking to fight the affliction on my health by exercising regularly. I exercise every four to five days every week for at least 20 minutes. Speaking it out, meeting with a therapist when necessary, and being vulnerable with friends regarding life’s challenges. Being non-dualistic about things. I’m trying to understand that nothing is just good or bad. It can include components from both.”
  3. Only try to find some of your answers. “When you’re young, you believe your teachers, parents, or someone older than you have every answer. There is a sense of comfort when you know that while we don’t need to know everything, however, someone else has them,” he noted, “However, that feeling diminishes as we age and begin to work. Everyone wants to know all the answers, and if they don’t possess them, they presume that the person above them is typically their CEO or boss. Being told that you possess all the solution results is a lot of pressure if you don’t allow it. But I’ve realized in my thirteen years of being CEO that It’s not my job to have all the answers, and that’s fine. So long as I’m always trying to find solutions and ways to improve the lives of my family, employees, and friends and the entire world.”

For the record, Formstack CEO believes he’s discovered the secret to modern-day leadership and the evidence is in his favor. Since he has exposed his weaknesses to employees and deficiencies, he thinks he’s now more effective as a leader, and it’s paid off. “By having a vulnerable attitude, I’ve made strong connections with my employees and gained their trust. Not only is the chief executive of the business they are employed by, but also as an employee-focused leader who values their well-being and the success of our company.”

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Samatha Vale
Samatha a senior writer for HC's entertainment team. She is an entreprenuer, mother and an excellent writer. She's also an avid reader, music enthusiast and all around inquisitive person - which is just a nice way of saying she's nosy.

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