At Work, Be Who You Really Are: Now that Takes Courage!

Easily distracted by our projections about people’s personalities, we forget to focus on a critical courageous leadership action: reveal vulnerability. While preparing for a presentation on courageous leadership for a Fortune 500 company, my client and I decided that having a panel of four internal employees (three women and one man) would be a great way to reveal situational courageous leadership within their organization. These four employees briefly shared a scenario about how they had uniquely displayed their courage at work.

What was amazing to me was how each person’s story showed how they opened their heart to reveal vulnerability; hence, achieving results. Courage comes from the French word corage, meaning “heart and spirit,” which tells us that acting with courage is really about acting from their hearts and spirits—from the center of their being. After each of the panelists shared their stories, an audience member asked the panel a question. Immediately, the male on the panel responded quite simply and strongly, in pure vulnerability “The bottom line is about getting results—that’s all!”

Results mean a profitable business. Attempting to manipulate the process makes it harder for us all. What are the results you are trying to achieve? Are you willing to invite a level of self-awareness that lives in the courage action displayed when you reveal vulnerability, and do you have the capacity to receive it? Or does manipulation have a hold on your spirit?

With self-awareness, we begin to notice our personal forms of manipulation—from intimidation to indifference to passive aggressive behaviors. Facing a decisive moment provides an opportunity to reveal vulnerability. Parker Palmer writes in Let Your Life Speak, “The punishment imposed on us for claiming true self can never be worse than the punishment we impose on ourselves by failing to make that claim. And the converse is true as well: no reward anyone might give us could possibly be greater than the reward that comes from living by our own best lights.”

Revealing vulnerability allows our best lights to shine into the workplace such as inner peace. The difficulty arises from the ego mentality that refuses to believe this, insisting instead that vulnerability is a sign of weakness that must be hidden. “Real courage in the workplace is usually so quiet that it goes unnoticed,” said Rob Gates. “Every day small business owners bid on jobs that could make or break the company without enough information or resources to be sure they haven’t just signed a suicide pact. Every day people who are terrified of public speaking give speeches because that’s the job that has to be done that day. There are countless things like that which take real courage.” What is your capacity for rejection?

While these examples of real courage may seem sensible in the workplace, the deeper truth is that revealing your vulnerability represents integrity and conveys your true identity. The alternative—hiding your mistakes and weaknesses—can only be accomplished through manipulation, which undermines your integrity, breeds distrust and stifles your true “heart and spirit” identity. Real estate broker John Gibbs keeps it simple when he says, “I believe by staying centered, close to your higher being and true to yourself, you can overcome any obstacle that faces you.” As poet e. e. Cummings wrote,

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.

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