Vulnerability is like relational glue. Vulnerability is almost synonymous with authenticity. Leadership vulnerability is a type of currency on ministry teams. Vulnerability is a superpower from the Holy Spirit.
Leader, your team, whether paid or unpaid, knows your blindspots. They see them. They want you to see them, but sometimes they struggle to articulate your blind spots in a winsome way that doesn’t crush your leadership spirit.
Leaders go first in asking for feedback. Some of you may have some trauma with the word “feedback.” You remember poor supervisors who consistently came by your desk and asked, “Can I give you some feedback?” You always said “yes” or remained silent even though you wanted to say “no.” Their feedback may, or may not, have been helpful.
Maybe “feedback” is a leadership trigger word for you. That’s okay. Use another word. “Can I share an opportunity for growth that I see?”
Those who lead teams should humble themselves by setting a culture of asking for feedback around their personal leadership growth areas. It will feel awkward and vulnerable at first. In my experience, we often make these feedback experiences more negative in our heads. We build them up into something threatening. Most of the time, feedback from those on our team is simply coming from a place of love and care for you as the leader. They want to help you be more efficient and effective.
Leadership vulnerability helps unlock the full potential of your leadership team. A synonym for vulnerability is confession. Imagine if confession and absolution were hard-wired into your leadership team. It should be—we’re the church! Confession and absolution is what we do! It’s what Christ has given to us in the office of the keys!
Big question—why do many leaders struggle with vulnerability? Here are three primary reasons.
1. You’ve never seen it modeled.
If you’re the pastor you’ve possibly been trained to do ministry rather than develop others to help you do the ministry. Vulnerability for the developing leader is standard behavior. Why? They would not develop other leaders unless they deeply knew they needed help. This is not so for the “doer.” They don’t have time for vulnerability. Why? They’re doing everything!
This may be overly simplistic, but I don’t think it is far from the truth for many overwhelmed church leaders.
2. You are uncomfortable talking about your emotions.
I’ve noticed a decline in deep conversations in our culture. We live so fast—heads in our
phones, bouncing from meeting to meeting, and we’re barely hanging on day after day. Many leaders feel like they are barely surviving rather than thriving.
Vulnerable conversations are rooted in our emotions. These conversations will necessitate
words like, “I feel…” or “I want/need…” This is not a normal occurrence for most leaders. Many of us are driven and rationalize that we don’t have time for feelings. They are too soft.
Here is the truth. Humans are “feeling beings” before we are “thinking beings.” Yes, men, that includes you. The more consistently leaders discuss how ministry decisions are making them feel, the greater the level of vulnerability team leaders will pass to their teams.
Here is a Sunday-morning mess-up example. “Matt, I am sorry that I missed announcing the new campus director during the announcements. I felt tired and overwhelmed (feelings) at that point, and just missed it. Please forgive me.” You better believe Matt quickly forgave me.
3. You struggle with pride.
Your self-worth, likely from a young age, was defined by being the “best” or the “smartest” or the one everyone could count on. Pride sounds like an inner voice (not God’s voice) that says,
“If a job is going to be done right, I must do it.”
“I’m the one trained to do this job.”
“I don’t have the right people on the team.”
This may be true, but if you pridefully want to take responsibility for everything that happens in your ministry, then they have the wrong leader. Sorry for the hard truth.
Vulnerability asks for help. A lot!
Vulnerability confesses sin. A lot!
Vulnerability is the currency of trust which, in the hands of the humble and learning leader, has the capacity to exponentially help your ministry grow, utilizing ALL of the gifts of the body of Christ. The wonderful byproduct is much deeper relationships of trust with your ministry team. Who doesn’t want that?