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The Vulnerability Question

My good mate Chris asked me a fair question the other day about my comment on vulnerability vs. authenticity. He went on to eloquently articulate his story. My answer to his question went like this.

When it comes to vulnerability and authenticity there is a murky bit in the middle of the two but for purposes of clarity….

Authenticity is largely a question of delivery and presentation. I am authentic because of how I am and how I express myself. Authentic people can also be not particularly nice at times (Donald Trump).

Vulnerability is about what I choose to disclose, say and do.

Most leaders fail on vulnerability because they won’t speak the truth or express themselves out of fear of shame, embarrassment or consequence.

Until organisations embrace and encourage vulnerability how can real conversations happen? Why would a leader speak openly on platforms like Yammer or Chat? They’d rather continue to hide behind closeted meetings, 1:1 emails and all kinds of corporate pretense…. And they can do all of that being authentic, but being very selective about what they talk about and to who. Rarely do you ever see who our leaders actually are…

Then I read this. The honesty and vulnerability on an issue that affects us all is profound. What Brad says requires an enormous acceptance of vulnerability – and then expression of it. How he does it is authentic.

Q: How much does the issue of mental health differ in startups from the world at large?
A: In general, I don’t know. But leaders and entrepreneurs are programmed to “never show weakness”, so I expect there’s much more pressure to keep it hidden and suppressed, which if you’ve ever been depressed, can make things much worse.

Read the whole story. It’s time for a new dialog – specifically on the issue of depression – one that embraces vulnerability and authenticity.

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