Emotional strength is an absolute must for entrepreneurs, but many business leaders can also benefit from an emotion many shy away from -- vulnerability.
We all know that entrepreneurs need to have a thick skin, as your business can gain (or lose) thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye. If you've been reading these columns for a while, you know that I've developed emotional toughness through plenty of setbacks and late nights.
However, my turbulent past has also taught me that a little tenderness can go a long way. Tenderness and vulnerability are emotions that entrepreneurs have to showcase.
I've found that embracing vulnerability (and flipping the negative connotations associated with that term) has helped me in three valuable ways.
Anytime you're trying to grow your business, you're risking your neck. Vulnerability can seem like a weakness at these points, but it actually allows for greater introspection.
I have a trusted mentor who has been a source of inspiration for me for years. Back when I was uncertain college dropout, I was able to confide in him the fears that accompany the start of entrepreneurship.
Had I brushed him off and just gone my own way, confident that I knew better than anyone, who knows where I'd be now? It's okay to seek advice from a trusted colleague or mentor. Some of my most vulnerable moments have been the starting point for my best, most lucrative ideas.
This does not mean you can tell your sob story to anyone who will listen. Embracing a mentor is a key to successful entrepreneurship, but that relationship must be taken seriously.
When you understand the idea that you don't know everything all the time, you open your mind and learn new ways to enhance your business.
When you are just starting out in entrepreneurship, you are quite vulnerable. There's no way around that. You've launched a business, risking a cushy job and regular salary. If you don't think this leaves you vulnerable, you haven't been doing this long enough.
Any moment where you risk even the tiniest bit in order to advance your business, you are leaving yourself somewhat vulnerable. The successful entrepreneurs are the ones who feel comfortable operating in this space.
If you're afraid to feel vulnerable, even minor risks can seem like they're not worth it. When you're unwilling to leverage risk for growth, you get stuck at the beginning stage. I don't think you're going down this path of entrepreneurship to work with the same three clients you started out with.
When you look at all of the times you've grown in your life, you left yourself open for some pain. This feeling doesn't go away, even when you're 50 years deep into your business. Learning to live with vulnerability means you understand risk, and know when to take a chance and when to step aside.
Once you've grown past the one-man-shop phase of your company and start hiring employees, vulnerability is a vital trait.
Practicing and embracing vulnerability as a CEO allows you to step inside the shoes of your employees. When you start to see things their way, you can spot problems sooner and hold greater knowledge of what works within your company.
When you have an emotional bond with your employees, you have a staff willing to go to bat for you. If you're up-front with your employees and explain to them the reasons behind tough decisions, you'll find that they actually understand. This is a vital tactic for retaining your top talent.
It's okay to step back and admit that you don't have every answer to every problem. That's why you're employing a staff. While your employees look to you to lead the way, they know you can't be Superman at all times. When you share vulnerabilities with your team, you'll find that they trust you more often.
What you might view as negative vulnerability, your employees will see as refreshing honesty. You'll be able to sit and listen to your employees, who are running the day-to-day operations, and get a micro-level view of your company. This is something more and more CEOs are learning, as taking a top-down approach to leadership often leads to turnover and turmoil within your team.
The important thing here is to realize that vulnerability is not a negative emotion. Some of our greatest innovations have come from moments of introspection. The great business leaders of the world aren't too hardened that they've lost touch with their employees.
When you embrace the fact that, as an entrepreneur, you will face times of vulnerability, your business can reach new heights.