There’s a lot of buzz in education right now about vulnerability. Many are talking about how it impacts leaders and their ability to connect with others, and more are talking about the trust that’s required for school wide risk taking to become a reality.
If you ask me, we’re starting the right conversations.
One of my favorite lines that I’ve come across as I’ve navigated the vulnerability/risk taking conversation is by Brené Brown. From her perspective (and more and more, I’m becoming a believer and adopting this mindset as well), “Vulnerability is not weakness, rather it is our most accurate measurement of courage and the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
Hers is a pretty bold claim. Think about what’s really at stake in that line. She’s saying that three of those things that seem non-negotiable for student success–innovation, creativity, and change–they’re an impossibility without embracing vulnerability.
So, it’s good that we’re talking about it.
My worry is that when it comes to vulnerability, we’re getting better at talking about it than at actually living it out. It’s certainly easier to talk a good vulnerability game than it is to live (or start) a life lived vulnerably.
With that in mind, here are three ways we can embrace vulnerability, not just as an idea, but as a week-in, week-out practice at school.
ASK FOR CRITICISM
We all like to think we are open, available, and easy to talk to. More often than not, though, I’m betting we give ourselves more benefit of the doubt here than we should.
Inviting some criticism shows that we really believe that getting better involves having hard conversations, and asking others on campus for their feedback in those moments values the feedback and perspective of the others with whom we often interact.
Asking for feedback without giving any parameters is likely to yield either overly general feedback or overly specific feedback. Give people a couple of choices or maybe even give them a template to work with to help direct their feedback. That also helps ease toward the deep end of vulnerability without having to open up areas of ourselves where we’re less than comfortable venturing in those first conversations.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Putting your money where your mouth is by taking on something new–especially something that’s a challenge, that might not work–lets you really indicate that it’s okay for others to tackle that idea that maybe only has a 50/50 shot of working.
A lot of educators probably bury ideas because they’re not sure how to work through something that might fail. Your work can serve as a great model (one that you don’t have to nail down the first time; it can be a work in progress, too) for others who are looking for someone who’s willing to take on a new idea, work through the mess, and come out better for it on the other side.
OWN YOUR MISTAKES
Mistakes are inevitable. We have to be willing to own them and use them as the point of departure for productive growth in ourselves. That’s an idea that’s easy to nod your head along to, but it’s tougher to live that out.
In those time where we make tough decisions that impact others and things don’t turn out, I think it’s important for others to hear us and see us take responsibility. That’s not a popular narrative for most. Strength is all about covering up mistakes and appearing flawless and faultless for many. If we really want to bring people together and foster the kind of campus culture that brings people together rather than pushing people apart, then we have to be willing to have take this sort of action at every level of leadership on campus.
Because It’s Worth It…
Not only is there far too much on the line for us to blink past the necessity of living vulnerable lives in our schools, but there is also so much up side in taking on even just one of these challenges. Neglecting to pursue this is a recipe for stagnation and regression.
It’s not easy. It won’t always be much fun. But the work to open yourself to others, regardless of your role on campus, makes you a leader.